New insights on the ventral attention network: active suppression and involuntary recruitment during a bimodal task

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Detection of unexpected, yet relevant events is essential in daily life. fMRI studies have revealed the involvement of the ventral attention network (VAN), including the temporo‐parietal junction (TPJ), in such process. In this MEG study with 34 participants (17 women), we used a bimodal (visual/auditory) attention task to determine the neuronal dynamics associated with suppression of the activity of the VAN during top‐down attention and its recruitment when information from the unattended sensory modality is involuntarily integrated. We observed an anticipatory power increase of alpha/beta oscillations (12–20 Hz, previously associated with functional inhibition) in the VAN following a cue indicating the modality to attend. Stronger VAN power increases were associated with better task performance, suggesting that the VAN suppression prevents shifting attention to distractors. Moreover, the TPJ was synchronized with the frontal eye field in that frequency band, indicating that the dorsal attention network (DAN) might participate in such suppression. Furthermore, we found a 12–20 Hz power decrease and enhanced synchronization, in both the VAN and DAN, when information between sensory modalities was congruent, suggesting an involvement of these networks when attention is involuntarily enhanced due to multisensory integration. Our results show that effective multimodal attentional allocation includes the modulation of the VAN and DAN through upper‐alpha/beta oscillations. Altogether these results indicate that the suppressing role of alpha/beta oscillations might operate beyond sensory regions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1699-1713
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number6
Early online date21 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021


  • alpha oscillations, attention, dorsal attention network, multisensory integration, ventral attention network