Individual alpha peak frequency predicts 10 Hz flicker effects on selective attention

Rasa Gulbinaite, Tara van Viegen, Martijn Wieling, Michael Cohen, Rufin vanRullen

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    Abstract

    Rhythmic visual stimulation (“flicker”) is primarily used to “tag” processing of low-level visual and high-level cognitive phenomena. However, preliminary evidence suggests that flicker may also entrain endogenous brain oscillations, thereby modulating cognitive processes supported by those brain rhythms. Here we tested the interaction between 10 Hz flicker and endogenous alpha-band (∼10 Hz) oscillations during a selective visuospatial attention task. We recorded EEG from human participants (both genders) while they performed a modified Eriksen flanker task in which distractors and targets flickered within (10 Hz) or outside (7.5 or 15 Hz) the alpha band. By using a combination of EEG source separation, time-frequency, and single-trial linear mixed-effects modeling, we demonstrate that 10 Hz flicker interfered with stimulus processing more on incongruent than congruent trials (high vs low selective attention demands). Crucially, the effect of 10 Hz flicker on task performance was predicted by the distance between 10 Hz and individual alpha peak frequency (estimated during the task). Finally, the flicker effect on task performance was more strongly predicted by EEG flicker responses during stimulus processing than during preparation for the upcoming stimulus, suggesting that 10 Hz flicker interfered more with reactive than proactive selective attention. These findings are consistent with our hypothesis that visual flicker entrained endogenous alpha-band networks, which in turn impaired task performance. Our findings also provide novel evidence for frequency-dependent exogenous modulation of cognition that is determined by the correspondence between the exogenous flicker frequency and the endogenous brain rhythms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10173-10184
    Number of pages10
    JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
    Volume37
    Issue number42
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 18-Oct-2017

    Keywords

    • alpha oscillations
    • attention
    • entrainment
    • flicker
    • SSVEP
    • steady-state visual-evoked potentials
    • RHYTHMIC SENSORY STIMULATION
    • VISUAL-EVOKED RESPONSES
    • MIXED-EFFECTS MODELS
    • STEADY-STATE
    • BRAIN OSCILLATIONS
    • TEMPORAL EXPECTATIONS
    • BAND OSCILLATIONS
    • SPATIAL ATTENTION
    • COGNITIVE CONTROL
    • FRONTAL-CORTEX

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