This article is part of the Research Topic Lower frequency brain oscillations in perception

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 05 October 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00241

Right prefrontal TMS disrupts interregional anticipatory EEG alpha activity during shifting of visuospatial attention

Paul Sauseng1,2*, Jan F. Feldheim2, Roman Freunberger3,4 and Friedhelm C. Hummel2
  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  • 2 Brain Imaging and Neurostimulation Laboratory, Department of Neurology, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
  • 3 Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
  • 4 Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany

Visual attention can be shifted in space without moving the eyes. Amplitude decrease of rhythmical brain activity around 10 Hz (so called alpha activity) at contralateral posterior sites has been reported during covered shifts of visuospatial attention to one visual hemi-field. Alpha amplitude increase, on the other hand, can be found at ipsilateral visual cortex. There is some evidence suggesting an involvement of prefrontal brain areas during the control of attention-related anticipatory alpha amplitude asymmetry. This open question has been studied in detail using a multimodal approach combining transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and multichannel electroencephalography (EEG) in healthy humans. Slow (1 Hz) repetitive TMS leading to reduced excitability of the stimulation site was delivered either to right frontal eye field (FEF) or a control site (vertex). Subsequently, participants had to perform a spatial cuing task in which covert shifts of attention were required to either the left or the right visual hemi-field. After stimulation at the vertex (control condition) a pattern of anticipatory, attention-related ipsilateral alpha increase/contralateral alpha decrease over posterior recording sites could be obtained. Additionally, there was pronounced coupling between (in particular right) FEF and posterior brain sites at EEG alpha frequency. When, however, right prefrontal cortex had been virtually lesioned preceding the task, these EEG correlates of visuospatial attention were attenuated. Notably, the effect of TMS at the right FEF on interregional fronto-parietal alpha coupling predicted the effect of TMS on response times. This suggests that visual attention processes associated with posterior EEG alpha activity are at least partly top-down controlled by the prefrontal cortex.

Keywords: frontal eye field, fronto-parietal attention network, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, top-down control

Citation: Sauseng P, Feldheim JF, Freunberger R and Hummel FC (2011) Right prefrontal TMS disrupts interregional anticipatory EEG alpha activity during shifting of visuospatial attention. Front. Psychology 2:241. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00241

Received: 28 February 2011; Accepted: 03 September 2011
Published online: 05 October 2011.

Edited by:

Gregor Thut, University of Glasgow, UK

Reviewed by:

Valentin Wyart, University of Oxford, UK
Paul Taylor, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany

Copyright: © 2011 Sauseng, Feldheim, Freunberger and Hummel. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Paul Sauseng, Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK. e-mail:

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