Cross-frequency Phase-Amplitude Coupling as a Mechanism for Temporal Orienting of Attention in Childhood.
Mento G., Astle DE., Scerif G.
Temporal orienting of attention operates by biasing the allocation of cognitive and motor resources in specific moments in time, resulting in the improved processing of information from expected compared with unexpected targets. Recent findings have shown that temporal orienting operates relatively early across development, suggesting that this attentional mechanism plays a core role for human cognition. However, the exact neurophysiological mechanisms allowing children to attune their attention over time are not well understood. In this study, we presented 8- to 12-year-old children with a temporal cueing task designed to test (1) whether anticipatory oscillatory dynamics predict children's behavioral performance on a trial-by-trial basis and (2) whether anticipatory oscillatory neural activity may be supported by cross-frequency phase-amplitude coupling as previously shown in adults. Crucially, we found that, similar to what has been reported in adults, children's ongoing beta rhythm was strongly coupled with their theta rhythm and that the strength of this coupling distinguished validly cued temporal intervals, relative to neutral cued trials. In addition, in long trials, there was an inverse correlation between oscillatory beta power and children's trial-by-trial reaction, consistent with oscillatory beta power reflecting better response preparation. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that temporal attention in children operates by exploiting oscillatory mechanism.