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Mehdi Senoussi, James C. Moreland, Niko A. Busch, Laura Dugué; Attention explores space periodically at the theta frequency. Journal of Vision 2019;19(5):22. doi: 10.1167/19.5.22.
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Voluntary attention is at the core of a wide variety of cognitive functions. Attention can be oriented to and sustained at a location or reoriented in space to allow processing at other locations—critical in an ever-changing environment. Numerous studies have investigated attentional orienting in time and space, but little is known about the spatiotemporal dynamics of attentional reorienting. Here we explicitly manipulated attentional reorienting using a cuing procedure in a two-alternative forced-choice orientation-discrimination task. We interrogated attentional distribution by flashing two probe stimuli with various delays between the precue and target stimuli. Then we used the probabilities that both probes and neither probe were correctly reported to solve a second-degree equation, which estimates the report probability at each probe location. We demonstrated that attention reorients periodically at ∼4 Hz (theta) between the two stimulus locations. We further characterized the processing dynamics at each stimulus location, and demonstrated that attention samples each location periodically at ∼11 Hz (alpha). Finally, simulations support our findings and show that this method is sufficiently powered, making it a valuable tool for studying the spatiotemporal dynamics of attention.
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