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Once thought to simply reflect passive cortical idling, recent studies have demonstrated that α oscillations play a causal role in cognition and perception. However, whether and how cognitive or sensory processes modulate various components of the α rhythm is poorly understood. Sensory input and resting states were manipulated in human subjects while electroencephalography (EEG) activity was recorded in three conditions: eyes-open fixating on a visual stimulus, eyes-open without visual input (darkness), and eyes-closed without visual input (darkness). We show that α power and peak frequency increase when visual input is reduced compared to the eyes open, fixating condition. These results suggest that increases in α power reflect a shift from an exteroceptive to interoceptive state and that increases in peak frequency following restricted visual input (darkness) may reflect increased sampling of the external environment in order to detect stimuli. They further demonstrate how sensory information modulates α and the importance of selecting an appropriate resting condition in studies of α.


This article was originally published in eNeuro, available at

This work is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).



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