Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Filter mechanisms that prevent irrelevant information from consuming the limited storage capacity of visual STM are critical for goal-directed behavior. Alpha oscillatory activity has been related to proactive filtering of anticipated distraction. Yet, distraction in everyday life is not always anticipated, necessitating rapid, reactive filtering mechanisms. Currently, the oscillatory mechanisms underlying reactive distractor filtering remain unclear. In the current EEG study, we investigated whether reactive filtering of distractors also relies on alpha-band oscillatory mechanisms and explored possible contributions by oscillations in other frequency bands. To this end, participants performed a lateralized change detection task in which a varying and unpredicted number of distractors were presented both in the relevant hemifield, among targets, and in the irrelevant hemifield. Results showed that, whereas proactive distractor filtering was accompanied by lateralization of alpha-band activity over posterior scalp regions, reactive distractor filtering was not associated with modulations of oscillatory power in any frequency band. Yet, behavioral and post hoc ERP analyses clearly showed that participants selectively encoded relevant information. On the basis of these results, we conclude that reactive distractor filtering may not be realized through local modulation of alpha-band oscillatory activity.