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Int J Psychophysiol. 1996 Nov;24(1-2):7-23.

Intention as a component of the alpha-rhythm response to mental activity.

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Division of Sport Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, Alsager, UK.


Many studies of alpha-rhythm reactivity conclude that alpha is selectively attenuated by attention accompanying mental activity. The topography of this attenuation is assumed to match the relevant functional topography of the cortex. But there are reports of apparent increased attention resulting in no change, or even enhanced alpha - the paradoxical response. It is proposed that in this case, alpha amplitude may be dependent on an intention component of behaviour. Some conflicting reports of alpha reactivity to mental processes may then be resolved. It is argued that the classical attention model of alpha is untenable, except for simple sensori-motor responses. Reasons are given to support this and the concept of intention as a neuropsychological variable is introduced. Evidence is presented for a generalisation of an oculomotor model of alpha activity proposed by Wertheim who demonstrated that alpha reduces during attentive, but not during intentive visual behaviour. The generalisation follows from reports of enhanced alpha in the few seconds prior to a skilled action in sport, and by neurophysiological evidence for a separate cortical organisation for perception and action. Varying proportions of attention and intention then add a dimension to the factors influencing alpha blocking which may explain its inconsistent response.

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