Anticipatory Attention: An Event-Related Desynchronization Approach

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This paper addresses the question of whether anticipatory attention -- i.e. attention directed towards an upcoming stimulus in order to facilitate its processing -- is realized at the neurophysiological level by a pre-stimulus desynchronization of the sensory cortex corresponding to the modality of the anticipated stimulus, reflecting the opening of a thalamocortical gate in the relevant sensory modality. It is argued that a technique called Event-Related Desynchronization (ERD) of rhythmic 10-Hz activity is well suited to study the thalamocortical processes that are thought to mediate anticipatory attention. In a series of experiments, ERD was computed on EEG and MEG data, recorded while subjects performed a time estimation task and were informed about the quality of their time estimation by stimuli providing Knowledge of Results (KR). The modality of the KR stimuli (auditory, visual, or somatosensory) was manipulated both within and between experiments. The results indicate to varying degrees that preceding the presentation of the KR stimuli, ERD is present over the sensory cortex, which corresponds to the modality of the KR stimulus. The general pattern of results supports the notion that a thalamocortical gating mechanism forms the neurophysiological basis of anticipatory attention. Furthermore, the results support the notion that Event-Related Potential (ERP) and ERD measures reflect fundamentally different neurophysiological processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-107
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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