Alpha oscillations do not implement gain control in early visual cortex but rather gating in parieto‐occipital regions

Alexander Zhigalov*, Ole Jensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial attention provides a mechanism for, respectively, enhancing relevant and suppressing irrelevant information. While it is well established that attention modulates oscillations in the alpha band, it remains unclear if alpha oscillations are involved in directly modulating the neuronal excitability associated with the allocation of spatial attention. In this study, in humans, we utilized a novel broadband frequency (60–70 Hz) tagging paradigm to quantify neuronal excitability in relation to alpha oscillations in a spatial attention paradigm. We used magnetoencephalography to characterize ongoing brain activity as it allows for localizing the sources of both the alpha and frequency tagging responses. We found that attentional modulation of alpha power and the frequency tagging response are uncorrelated over trials. Importantly, the neuronal sources of the tagging response were localized in early visual cortex (V1) whereas the sources of the alpha activity were identified around parieto-occipital sulcus. Moreover, we found that attention did not modulate the latency of the frequency tagged responses. Our findings point to alpha band oscillations serving a downstream gating role rather than implementing gain control of excitability in early visual regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5176-5186
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number18
Early online date17 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding information:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Grant/Award Number: BB/R018723/1; James S. McDonnell Foundation, Grant/Award Number: 220020448; Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, Grant/Award Number: 13333; Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in Science, Grant/Award Number: 207550


  • alpha oscillations,
  • frequency tagging
  • magnetoencephalography
  • response latency
  • spatial attention


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