Multi-spectral oscillatory dynamics serving directed and divided attention

Marie C. McCusker, Alex I. Wiesman, Mikki D. Schantell, Jacob A. Eastman, Tony W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Attention-related amplification of neural representations of external stimuli has been well documented in the visual domain, however, research concerning the oscillatory dynamics of such directed attention is relatively sparse in humans. Specifically, it is unknown which spectrally-specific neural responses are mainly impacted by the direction and division of attention, as well as whether the effects of attention on these oscillations are spatially disparate. In this study, we use magnetoencephalography and a visual-somatosensory oddball task to investigate the whole-brain oscillatory dynamics of directed (Experiment 1; N ​= ​26) and divided (Experiment 2; N ​= ​34) visual attention. Sensor-level data were transformed into the time-frequency domain and significant responses from baseline were imaged using a frequency-resolved beamformer. We found that multi-spectral cortical oscillations were stronger when attention was sustained in the visual space and that these effects exhibited informative spatial distributions that differed by frequency. More specifically, we found stronger frontal theta (4–8 ​Hz), frontal and occipital alpha (8–14 ​Hz), occipital beta (16–22 ​Hz), and frontal gamma (74–84 ​Hz) responses when visual attention was sustained than when it was directed away from the visual domain. Similarly, in the divided attention condition, we observed stronger fronto-parietal theta activity and temporo-parietal alpha and beta oscillations when visual attention was sustained toward the visual stimuli than divided between the visual and somatosensory domains. Investigating how attentional gain is implemented in the human brain is essential for better understanding how this process is degraded in disease, and may provide useful targets for future therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116927
StatePublished - Aug 15 2020


  • Alpha
  • MEG
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Occipital
  • Prefrontal
  • Theta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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