Top-down control of visual cortex by the frontal eye fields through oscillatory realignment

Domenica Veniero*, Joachim Gross, Stephanie Morand, Felix Duecker, Alexander T. Sack, Gregor Thut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Web of Science)


Voluntary allocation of visual attention is controlled by top-down signals generated within the Frontal Eye Fields (FEFs) that can change the excitability of lower-level visual areas. However, the mechanism through which this control is achieved remains elusive. Here, we emulated the generation of an attentional signal using single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation to activate the FEFs and tracked its consequences over the visual cortex. First, we documented changes to brain oscillations using electroencephalography and found evidence for a phase reset over occipital sites at beta frequency. We then probed for perceptual consequences of this top-down triggered phase reset and assessed its anatomical specificity. We show that FEF activation leads to cyclic modulation of visual perception and extrastriate but not primary visual cortex excitability, again at beta frequency. We conclude that top-down signals originating in FEF causally shape visual cortex activity and perception through mechanisms of oscillatory realignment. Visual attention requires top-down modulation from the frontal eye fields to change cortical excitability of visual cortex. Here, the authors show that these top-down signals shape perception through mechanisms of oscillatory phase realignment at the beta frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1757
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021

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