Oscillatory recruitment of bilateral visual cortex during spatial attention to competing rhythmic inputs

Michael J. Gray, Hans Peter Frey, Tommy J. Wilson, John J. Foxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Selective attention uses temporal regularity of relevant inputs to bias the phase of ongoing population-level neuronal oscillations. This phase entrainment streamlines processing, allowing attended information to arrive at moments of high neural excitability. How entrainment resolves competition between spatially segregated inputs during visuospatial tasks is not yet established. Using high-density electroencephalography in humans, a bilateral entrainment response to the rhythm (1.3 or 1.5 Hz) of an attended stimulation stream was observed, concurrent with a considerably weaker contralateral entrainment to a competing rhythm. That ipsilateral visual areas strongly entrained to the attended stimulus is notable because competitive inputs to these regions were being driven at an entirely different rhythm. Strong modulations of phase locking and weak modulations of single-trial power suggest that entrainment was primarily driven by phase-alignment of ongoing oscillatory activity. In addition, interhemispheric differences in entrained phase were found to be modulated by attended hemifield, implying that the bilateral nature of the response reflected a functional flow of information between hemispheres. This modulation was strongest at the third of at least four harmonics that were strongly entrained. Ipsilateral increases in alpha-band (8–12 Hz) power were also observed during bilateral entrainment, reflecting suppression of the ignored stimulation stream. Furthermore, both entrainment and alpha lateralization significantly affected task performance. We conclude that oscillatory entrainment is a functionally relevant mechanism that synchronizes endogenous activity across the cortical hierarchy to resolve spatial competition. We further speculate that concurrent suppression of ignored input might facilitate the widespread propagation of attended information during spatial attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5489-5503
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 8 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Biased competition
  • Delta band
  • Entrainment
  • Harmonics
  • Oscillations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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