Attention to rhythms: sensory-specific constrained sampling of temporal regularities

Arnaud Zalta, Spase Petkoski, Benjamin Morillon

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Oct 01, 2019
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Received Date: 23rd September 19

That attention is a fundamentally rhythmic process has recently received abundant empirical evidence. The essence of temporal attention, however, is to flexibly focus in time. Whether this function is hampered by an underlying rhythmic mechanism is unknown. In six interrelated experiments, we behaviourally quantify the sampling capacities of periodic temporal attention during auditory or visual perception. We reveal the presence of limited attentional capacities, with an optimal sampling rate of ~1.4 Hz in audition and ~0.7 Hz in vision. Investigating the motor contribution to temporal attention, we show that it scales with motor rhythmic precision, maximal at ~1.7 Hz. Critically, the motor modulation is beneficial to auditory but detrimental to visual temporal attention. These results are captured by a computational model of coupled oscillators, that reveals the underlying structural constraints governing the temporal alignment between motor and attention fluctuations.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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