Monthly
208 pp. per issue
8 1/2 x 11, illustrated
ISSN
0898-929X
E-ISSN
1530-8898
2014 Impact factor:
4.69

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

February 2020, Vol. 32, No. 2, Pages 272-282
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01484)
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alpha-band Activity Tracks the Zoom Lens of Attention
Article PDF (480.42 KB)
Abstract
Voluntary control over spatial attention has been likened to the operation of a zoom lens, such that processing quality declines as the size of the attended region increases, with a gradient of performance that peaks at the center of the selected area. Although concurrent changes in activity in visual regions suggest that zoom lens adjustments influence perceptual stages of processing, extant work has not distinguished between changes in the spatial selectivity of attention-driven neural activity and baseline shift of activity that can increase mean levels of activity without changes in selectivity. Here, we distinguished between these alternatives by measuring EEG activity in humans to track preparatory changes in alpha activity that indexed the precise topography of attention across the possible target positions. We observed increased spatial selectivity in alpha activity when observers voluntarily directed attention toward a narrower region of space, a pattern that was mirrored in target discrimination accuracy. Thus, alpha activity tracks both the centroid and spatial extent of covert spatial attention before the onset of the target display, lending support to the hypothesis that narrowing the zoom lens of attention shapes the initial encoding of sensory information.