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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

March 2021, Vol. 33, No. 3, Pages 536-562
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01637)
© 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stimulus-induced Alpha Suppression Tracks the Difficulty of Attentional Selection, Not Visual Working Memory Storage
Article PDF (2.43 MB)

Human alpha-band activity (8–12 Hz) has been proposed to index a variety of mechanisms during visual processing. Here, we distinguished between an account in which alpha suppression indexes selective attention versus an account in which it indexes subsequent working memory storage. We manipulated two aspects of the visual stimuli that perceptual attention is believed to mitigate before working memory storage: the potential interference from distractors and the size of the focus of attention. We found that the magnitude of alpha-band suppression tracked both of these aspects of the visual arrays. Thus, alpha-band activity after stimulus onset is clearly related to how the visual system deploys perceptual attention and appears to be distinct from mechanisms that store target representations in working memory.