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Publication Detail
Alpha oscillations reflect suppression of distractors with increased perceptual load
SummaryAttention serves an essential role in cognition and behaviour allowing us to focus on behaviourally-relevant objects while ignoring distraction. Perceptual load theory states that attentional resources are allocated according to the requirements of the task, i.e. its ‘load’. The theory predicts that the resources left to process irrelevant, possibly distracting stimuli, are reduced when the perceptual load is high. However, it remains unclear how this allocation of attentional resources specifically relates to neural excitability and suppression mechanisms. In this magnetoencephalography (MEG) study, we show that brain oscillations in the alpha band (8-13Hz) implement the suppression of distracting objects when the perceptual load is high. In parallel, high load increased neuronal excitability for target objects, as reflected by rapid frequency tagging. We suggest that the allocation of resources in tasks with high perceptual load is implemented by a gain increase for targets, complemented by distractor suppression reflected by alpha band oscillations closing the ‘gate’ for interference.
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