Attention periodically samples competing stimuli during binocular rivalry
Davidson MJ., Alais D., van Boxtel JJA., Tsuchiya N.
<jats:p>The attentional sampling hypothesis suggests that attention rhythmically enhances sensory processing when attending to a single (~8 Hz), or multiple (~4 Hz) objects. Here, we investigated whether attention samples sensory representations that are not part of the conscious percept during binocular rivalry. When crossmodally cued toward a conscious image, subsequent changes in consciousness occurred at ~8 Hz, consistent with the rates of undivided attentional sampling. However, when attention was cued toward the suppressed image, changes in consciousness slowed to ~3.5 Hz, indicating the division of attention away from the conscious visual image. In the electroencephalogram, we found that at attentional sampling frequencies, the strength of inter-trial phase-coherence over fronto-temporal and parieto-occipital regions correlated with changes in perception. When cues were not task-relevant, these effects disappeared, confirming that perceptual changes were dependent upon the allocation of attention, and that attention can flexibly sample away from a conscious image in a task-dependent manner.</jats:p>