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Occipital alpha-band brain waves when the eyes are closed are shaped by ongoing visual processes

Hohaia, W., Saurels, B. W., Johnston, A. , Yarrow, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-0666-2163 & Arnold, D. H. (2022). Occipital alpha-band brain waves when the eyes are closed are shaped by ongoing visual processes. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 1194. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-05289-6


One of the seminal findings of cognitive neuroscience is that the power of occipital alpha-band (~ 10 Hz) brain waves is increased when peoples’ eyes are closed, rather than open. This has encouraged the view that alpha oscillations are a default dynamic, to which the visual brain returns in the absence of input. Accordingly, we might be unable to increase the power of alpha oscillations when the eyes are closed, above the level that would normally ensue when people close their eyes. Here we report counter evidence. We used electroencephalography (EEG) to record brain activity when people had their eyes open and closed, both before and after they had adapted to radial motion. The increase in alpha power when people closed their eyes was increased by prior adaptation to a broad range of radial motion speeds. This effect was greatest for 10 Hz motion, but robust for other frequencies (and especially 7.5 Hz). This discredits a persistent entrainment of activity at the adaptation frequency as an explanation for our findings. Our data show that the power of occipital alpha-band brain waves can be increased by motion sensitive visual processes that persist when the eyes are closed. Consequently, we suggest that the power of these brain waves is, at least in part, an index of the degree to which visual brain activity is being subjected to inhibition. This is increased when people close their eyes, but can be even further increased by pre-adaptation to radial motion.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit © The Author(s) 2022
Publisher Keywords: neuroscience, psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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