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Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Feb;31(4):761-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07094.x.

Attention modulates beta oscillations during prolonged tactile stimulation.

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  • 1Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre, University of Toronto, 3560 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON M6A2E1, Canada.


The inter-play between changes in beta-band (14-30-Hz) cortical rhythms and attention during somatosensation informs us about where and when relevant processes occur in the brain. As such, we investigated the effects of attention on somatosensory evoked and induced responses using vibrotactile stimulation and magnetoencephalographic recording. Subjects received trains of vibration at 23 Hz to the right index finger while watching a movie and ignoring the somatosensory stimuli or paying attention to the stimuli to detect a change in the duration of the stimulus. The amplitude of the evoked 23-Hz steady-state response in the contralateral primary somatosensory cortex (SI) was enhanced by attention and the underlying dipole source was located 2 mm more medially, indicating top-down recruitment of additional neuronal populations for the functionally relevant stimulus. Attentional modulation of the somatosensory evoked response indicates facilitation of early processing of the tactile stimulus. Beta-band activity increased after vibration offset in the contralateral primary motor cortex (MI) [event-related synchronization (ERS)] and this increase was larger for attended than ignored stimuli. Beta-band activity decreased in the ipsilateral SI prior to stimulus offset [event-related desynchronization (ERD)] for attended stimuli only. Whereas attention modulation of the evoked response was confined to the contralateral SI, event-related changes of beta-band activity involved contralateral SI-MI and inter-hemispheric SI-SI connections. Modulation of neural activity in such a large sensorimotor network indicates a role for beta activity in higher-order processing.

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