Neural oscillatory synchrony could implement grouping processes, act as an attentional filter, or foster the storage of information in short-term memory. Do these findings indicate that oscillatory synchrony is an unspecific epiphenomenon occurring in any demanding task, or that oscillatory synchrony is a fundamental mechanism involved whenever neural cooperation is requested? If the latter hypothesis is true, then oscillatory synchrony should be specific, with distinct visual processes eliciting different types of oscillations. We recorded magnetoencephalogram (MEG) signals while manipulating the grouping properties of a visual display on the one hand, and the focusing of attention to memorize part of this display on the other hand. Grouping-related gamma oscillations were present in all conditions but modulated by the grouping properties of the stimulus (one or two groups) in the high gamma-band (70–120 Hz) at central occipital locations. Attention-related gamma oscillations appeared as an additional component whenever attentional focusing was requested in the low gamma-band (44–66 Hz) at parietal locations. Our results thus reveal the existence of a functional specialization in the gamma range, with grouping-related oscillations showing up at higher frequencies than attention-related oscillations. The pattern of oscillatory synchrony is thus specific of the visual process it is associated with. Our results further suggest that both grouping processes and focused attention rely on a common implementation process, namely, gamma-band oscillatory synchrony, a finding that could account for the fact that coherent percepts are more likely to catch attention than incoherent ones.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.