Neural Mechanisms of Sustained Attention Are Rhythmic

Author: Helfrich, R.F.; Fiebelkorn, I.C.; Szczepanski, S.M.; Lin, J.J.; Parvizi, J.; Knight, R.T.; Kastner, S.

Description: Classic models of attention suggest that sustained neural firing constitutes a neural correlate of sustained attention. However, recent evidence indicates that behavioral performance fluctuates over time, exhibiting temporal dynamics that closely resemble the spectral features of ongoing, oscillatory brain activity. Therefore, it has been proposed that periodic neuronal excitability fluctuations might shape attentional allocation and overt behavior. However, empirical evidence to support this notion is sparse. Here, we address this issue by examining data from large-scale subdural recordings, using two different attention tasks that track perceptual ability at high temporal resolution. Our results reveal that perceptual outcome varies as a function of the theta phase even in states of sustained spatial attention. These effects were robust at the single-subject level, suggesting that rhythmic perceptual sampling is an inherent property of the frontoparietal attention network. Collectively, these findings support the notion that the functional architecture of top-down attention is intrinsically rhythmic.

Subject Headings: discrete perception; electrocorticography; frontoparietal attention network; functional network parcellation; high-frequency activity; intracranial EEG; perceptual cycles; phase-dependent behavior; rhythmic attention; theta oscillations

Keywords: Neural Mechanisms of Sustained Attention Are Rhythmic

Publication year: 2018

Journal or book title: Neuron

Volume: 99

Issue: 4

Pages: 854-865.e5

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2428