Dr. Huan Luo: Alpha-Band Phase Modulates Bottom-up Feature Processing
Recent studies reveal that attention operates in a rhythmic manner, that is, sampling each location or feature alternatively over time. However, most evidence derives from top-down tasks, and it remains elusive whether bottom-up processing also entails dynamic coordination. Here, we developed a novel feature processing paradigm and combined time-resolved behavioral measurements and electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings to address the question. Specifically, a salient color in a multicolor display serves as a noninformative cue to capture attention and presumably reset the oscillations of feature processing. We then measured the behavioral performance of a probe stimulus associated with either high- or low-salient color at varied temporal lags after the cue. First, the behavioral results (i.e., reaction time) display an alpha-band (~8 Hz) profile with a consistent phase lag between high- and low-salient conditions. Second, simultaneous EEG recordings show that behavioral performance is modulated by the phase of alpha-band neural oscillation at the onset of the probes. Finally, high- and low-salient probes are associated with distinct preferred phases of alpha-band neural oscillations. Taken together, our behavioral and neural results convergingly support a central function of alpha-band rhythms in feature processing, that is, features with varied saliency levels are processed at different phases of alpha neural oscillations.