What is rhythmic sampling? The ability to focus (or attend) is often associated with successful task completion, but our research shows that the brain is wired to be distractible. That is, we attend in rhythmic bursts (at ~4Hz), with intervening periods when the brain checks in on the rest of the environment to make sure that the present focus is still the most important. Our attention is therefore never truly sustained or continuous, providing critical flexibility. Being overly focused on any particular stimulus might otherwise prevent us from detecting important information elsewhere (image: Tiger in a Tropical Storm by Henri Rousseau).

Recent Papers

  • Fiebelkorn et al., Neuron, 2018

    A dynamic interplay within the frontoparietal network underlies rhythmic spatial attention

    Fiebelkorn et al. (2018) Neuron, 99(4): 842-853.

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    The mediodorsal pulvinar coordinates the macaque fronto-parietal network during rhythmic spatial attention

    Fiebelkorn et al. (2019) Nature Communications,10: 215.

  • Fiebelkorn et al., 2019, Trends in Cognitive Sciences

    A rhythmic theory of attention

    Fiebelkorn and Kastner (2019) Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23(2): 87-101.

  • Helfrich et al., Neuron, 2019

    Neural mechanisms of sustained attention are rhythmic

    Helfrich et al. (2019) Neuron, 99(4): 854-865.

  • A schematic for neural basis of rhythmic sampling

    Functional specialization in the attention network

    Fiebelkorn and Kastner (2020) Annual Review of Psychology, 71: 11.1-11.29