Spontaneous pre-stimulus oscillatory activity shapes the way we look: a concurrent imaging and eye-movement study

Davide Paoletti*, Christoph Braun, Elisabeth Julie Vargo, Wieske van Zoest

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous behavioural studies have accrued evidence that response time plays a critical role in determining whether selection is influenced by stimulus saliency or target template. In the present work, we investigated to what extent the variations in timing and consequent oculomotor controls are influenced by spontaneous variations in pre-stimulus alpha oscillations. We recorded simultaneously brain activity using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and eye movements while participants performed a visual search task. Our results show that slower saccadic reaction times were predicted by an overall stronger alpha power in the 500 ms time window preceding the stimulus onset, while weaker alpha power was a signature of faster responses. When looking separately at performance for fast and slow responses, we found evidence for two specific sources of alpha activity predicting correct versus incorrect responses. When saccades were quickly elicited, errors were predicted by stronger alpha activity in posterior areas, comprising the angular gyrus in the temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) and possibly the lateral intraparietal area (LIP). Instead, when participants were slower in responding, an increase of alpha power in frontal eye fields (FEF), supplementary eye fields (SEF) and dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex (DLPFC) predicted erroneous saccades. In other words, oculomotor accuracy in fast responses was predicted by alpha power differences in more posterior areas, while the accuracy in slow responses was predicted by alpha power differences in frontal areas, in line with the idea that these areas may be differentially related to stimulus-driven and goal-driven control of selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-149
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date25 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • alpha oscillations
  • brain states
  • eye-movements
  • goal & stimulus-driven
  • pre-stimulus period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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