Dynamic changes in phase-amplitude coupling facilitate spatial attention control in fronto-parietal cortex

Abstract:

Attention is a core cognitive mechanism that allows the brain to allocate limited resources depending on current task demands. A number of frontal and posterior parietal cortical areas, referred to collectively as the fronto-parietal attentional control network, are engaged during attentional allocation in both humans and non-human primates. Numerous studies have examined this network in the human brain using various neuroimaging and scalp electrophysiological techniques. However, little is known about how these frontal and parietal areas interact dynamically to produce behavior on a fine temporal (sub-second) and spatial (sub-centimeter) scale. We addressed how human fronto-parietal regions control visuospatial attention on a fine spatiotemporal scale by recording electrocorticography (ECoG) signals measured directly from subdural electrode arrays that were implanted in patients undergoing intracranial monitoring for localization of epileptic foci. Subjects (n=8) performed a spatial-cuing task, in which they allocated visuospatial attention to either the right or left visual field and detected the appearance of a target. We found increases in high gamma (HG) power (70–250 Hz) time-locked to trial onset that remained elevated throughout the attentional allocation period over frontal, parietal, and visual areas. These HG power increases were modulated by the phase of the ongoing delta/theta (2–5 Hz) oscillation during attentional allocation. Critically, we found that the strength of this delta/theta phase-HG amplitude coupling predicted reaction times to detected targets on a trial-by-trial basis. These results highlight the role of delta/theta phase-HG amplitude coupling as a mechanism for sub-second facilitation and coordination within human fronto-parietal cortex that is guided by momentary attentional demands.