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  1. Author Response:

    Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

    The work by Wang et al. examined how task-irrelevant, high-order rhythmic context could rescue the attentional blink effect via reorganizing items into different temporal chunks, as well as the neural correlates. In a series of behavioral experiments with several controls, they demonstrated that the detection performance of T2 was higher when occurring in different chunks from T1, compared to when T1 and T2 were in the same chunk. In EEG recordings, they further revealed that the chunk-related entrainment was significantly correlated with the behavioral effect, and the alpha-band power for T2 and its coupling to the low-frequency oscillation were also related to behavioral effect. They propose that the rhythmic context implements a second-order temporal structure to the first-order regularities posited in dynamic attention theory.

    Overall, I find the results interesting and convincing, particularly the behavioral part. The manuscript is clearly written and the methods are sound. My major concerns are about the neural part, i.e., whether the work provides new scientific insights to our understanding of dynamic attention and its neural underpinnings.

    1. A general concern is whether the observed behavioral related neural index, e.g., alpha-band power, cross-frequency coupling, could be simply explained in terms of ERP response for T2. For example, when the ERP response for T2 is larger for between-chunk condition compared to within-chunk condition, the alpha-power for T2 would be also larger for between-chunk condition. Likewise, this might also explain the cross-frequency coupling results. The authors should do more control analyses to address the possibility, e.g., plotting the ERP response for the two conditions and regressing them out from the oscillatory index.

    Many thanks for the comment. In short, the enhancement in alpha power and cross-frequency coupling results in the between-cycle condition compared with those in the within-cycle condition cannot be accounted for by the ERP responses for T2.

    In general, the rhythmic stimulation in the AB paradigm prevents EEG signals from returning to the baseline. Therefore, we cannot observe typical ERP components purely related to individual items, except for the P1 and N1 components related to the stream onset, which reveals no difference between the two conditions and are trailed by steady-state responses (SSRs) resonating at the stimulus rate (Fig. R1).

    Fig. R1. ERPs aligned to stream onset. EEG signals were filtered between 1–30 Hz, baseline-corrected (-200 to 0 ms before stream onset) and averaged across the electrodes in left parieto-occipital area where 10-Hz alpha power showed attentional modulation effect.

    To further inspect the potential differences in the target-related ERP signals between the within- and between-cycle conditions, we plotted the target-aligned waveforms for these experimental conditions. As shown in Fig. R2, a drop of ERP amplitude occurred for both conditions around T2 onset, and the difference between these two conditions was not significant (paired t-test estimated on mean amplitude every 20 ms from 0 to 700 ms relative to T1 onset, p > .05, FDR-corrected).

    Fig. R2. ERPs aligned to T1 onset. EEG signals were filtered between 1–30 Hz, and baseline-corrected using signals -100 to 0 ms before T1 onset. The two dash lines indicate the onset of T1 and T2, respectively.

    Since there is a trend of enhanced ERP response for the between-cycle relative to the within-cycle condition during the period of 0 to 100 ms after T2 onset (paired t-test on mean amplitude, p =.065, uncorrected), we then directly examined whether such post-T2 responses contribute to the behavioral attentional modulation effect and behavior-related neural indices. Crucially, we did not find any significant correlation of such T2-related ERP enhancement with the behavioral modulation index (BMI), or with the reported effects of alpha power and cross-frequency coupling (PAC). Furthermore, after controlling for the T2-related ERP responses, there still remains a significant correlation between the delta-alpha PAC and the BMI (rpartial = .596, p = .019), which is not surprising given that the PAC is calculated based on an 800-ms time window covering more pre-T2 than post-T2 periods (see the response to point #4 for details) rather than around the T2 onset. Taken together, these results clearly suggest that the T2-related ERP responses cannot explain the attentional modulation effect and the observed behavior-related neural indices.

    1. The alpha-band increase for T2 is indeed contradictory to the well known inhibitory function of alpha-band in attention. How could a target that is better discriminated elicit stronger inhibitory response? Related to the above point, the observed enhancement in alpha-band power and its coupling to low-frequency oscillation might derive from an enhanced ERP response for T2 target.

    Many thanks for the comment. We have briefly discussed this point in the revised manuscript (page 18, line 477).

    A widely accepted function of alpha activity in attention is that alpha oscillations suppress irrelevant visual information during spatial selection (Kelly et al., 2006; Thut et al., 2006; Worden et al., 2000). However, it becomes a controversial issue when there exists rhythmic sensory stimulation at alpha-band, just like the situation in the current study where both the visual stream and the contextual auditory rhythm were emitted at 10 Hz. In such a case, alpha-band neural responses at the stimulation frequency can be interpreted as either passively evoked steady-state responses (SSR) or actively synchronized intrinsic brain rhythms. From the former perspective (i.e., the SSR view), an increase in the amplitude or power at the stimulus frequency may indicate an enhanced attentional allocation to the stimulus stream that may result in better target detection (Janson et al., 2014; Keil et al., 2006; Müller & Hübner, 2002). Conversely, the latter view of the inhibitory function of intrinsic alpha oscillations would produce the opposite prediction. In a previous AB study, Janson and colleagues (2014) investigated this issue by separating the stimulus-evoked activity at 12 Hz (using the same power analysis method as ours) from the endogenous alpha oscillations ranging from 10.35 to 11.25 Hz (as indexed by individual alpha frequency, IAF). Interestingly, they found a dissociation between these two alpha-band neural responses, showing that the RSVP frequency power was higher in non-AB trials (T2 detected) than in AB trials (T2 undetected) while the IAF power exhibited the opposite pattern. According to these findings, the currently observed increase in alpha power for the between-cycle condition may reflect more of the stimulus-driven processes related to attentional enhancement. However, we don’t negate the effect of intrinsic alpha oscillations in our study, as the current design is not sufficient to distinguish between these two processes. We have discussed this point in the revised manuscript (page 18, line 477). Also, we have to admit that “alpha power” may not be the most precise term to describe our findings of the stimulus-related results. Thus, we have specified it as “neural responses to first-order rhythms at 10 Hz” and “10-Hz alpha power” in the revised manuscript (see page 12 in the Results section and page 18 in the Discussion section).

    As for the contribution of T2-related ERP response to the observed effect of 10 Hz power and cross-frequency coupling, please refer to our response to point #1.

    References:

    Janson, J., De Vos, M., Thorne, J. D., & Kranczioch, C. (2014). Endogenous and Rapid Serial Visual Presentation-induced Alpha Band Oscillations in the Attentional Blink. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(7), 1454–1468. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_00551

    Keil, A., Ihssen, N., & Heim, S. (2006). Early cortical facilitation for emotionally arousing targets during the attentional blink. BMC Biology, 4(1), 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7007-4-23

    Kelly, S. P., Lalor, E. C., Reilly, R. B., & Foxe, J. J. (2006). Increases in Alpha Oscillatory Power Reflect an Active Retinotopic Mechanism for Distracter Suppression During Sustained Visuospatial Attention. Journal of Neurophysiology, 95(6), 3844–3851. https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.01234.2005

    Müller, M. M., & Hübner, R. (2002). Can the Spotlight of Attention Be Shaped Like a Doughnut? Evidence From Steady-State Visual Evoked Potentials. Psychological Science, 13(2), 119–124. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00422

    Thut, G., Nietzel, A., Brandt, S., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2006). Alpha-band electroencephalographic activity over occipital cortex indexes visuospatial attention bias and predicts visual target detection. The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 26(37), 9494–9502. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0875-06.2006

    Worden, M. S., Foxe, J. J., Wang, N., & Simpson, G. V. (2000). Anticipatory Biasing of Visuospatial Attention Indexed by Retinotopically Specific α-Bank Electroencephalography Increases over Occipital Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 20(6), RC63–RC63. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-06-j0002.2000

    1. To support that it is the context-induced entrainment that leads to the modulation in AB effect, the authors could examine pre-T2 response, e.g., alpha-power, and cross-frequency coupling, as well as its relationship to behavioral performance. I think the pre-stimulus response might be more convincing to support the authors' claim.

    Many thanks for the insightful suggestion. We have conducted additional analyses.

    Following this suggestion, we have examined the 10-Hz alpha power within the time window of -100–0 ms before T2 onset and found stronger activity for the between-cycle condition than for the within-cycle condition. This pre-T2 response is similar to the post-T2 response except that it is more restricted to the left parieto-occipital cluster (CP3, CP5, P3, P5, PO3, PO5, POZ, O1, OZ, t(15) = 2.774, p = .007), which partially overlaps with the cluster that exhibits a delta-alpha coupling effect significantly correlated with the BMI. We have incorporated these findings into the main text (page 12, line 315) and the Fig. 5A of the revised manuscript.

    As for the coupling results reported in our manuscript, the coupling index (PAC) was calculated based on the activity during the second and third cycles (i.e., 400 to 1200 ms from stream onset) of the contextual rhythm, most of which covers the pre-T2 period as T2 always appeared in the third cycle for both conditions. Together, these results on pre-T2 10-Hz alpha power and cross-frequency coupling, as well as its relationship to behavioral performance, jointly suggest that the observed modulation effect is caused by the context-induced entrainment rather than being a by-product of post-T2 processing.

    1. About the entrainment to rhythmic context and its relation to behavioral modulation index. Previous studies (e.g., Ding et al) have demonstrated the hierarchical temporal structure in speech signals, e.g., emergence of word-level entrainment introduced by language experience. Therefore, it is well expected that imposing a second-order structure on a visual stream would elicit the corresponding steady-state response. I understand that the new part and main focus here are the AB effects. The authors should add more texts explaining how their findings contribute new understandings to the neural mechanism for the intriguing phenomena.

    Many thanks for the suggestion. We have provided more discussion in the revised manuscript (page 17, line 447).

    We have provided more discussion on this important issue in the revised manuscript (page 17, line 447). In brief, our study demonstrates how cortical tracking of feature-based hierarchical structure reframes the deployment of attentional resources over visual streams. This effect, distinct from the hierarchical entrainment to speech signals (Ding et al., 2016; Gross et al., 2013), does not rely on previously acquired knowledge about the structured information and can be established automatically even when the higher-order structure comes from a task-irrelevant and cross-modal contextual rhythm. On the other hand, our finding sheds fresh light on the adaptive value of the structure-based entrainment effect by expanding its role from rhythmic information (e.g., speech) perception to temporal attention deployment. To our knowledge, few studies have tackled this issue in visual or speech processing.

    References:

    Ding, N., Melloni, L., Zhang, H., Tian, X., & Poeppel, D. (2016). Cortical tracking of hierarchical linguistic structures in connected speech. Nature Neuroscience, 19(1), 158–164. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4186

    Gross, J., Hoogenboom, N., Thut, G., Schyns, P., Panzeri, S., Belin, P., & Garrod, S. (2013). Speech Rhythms and Multiplexed Oscillatory Sensory Coding in the Human Brain. PLoS Biol, 11(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001752

    Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

    In cognitive neuroscience, a large number of studies proposed that neural entrainment, i.e., synchronization of neural activity and low-frequency external rhythms, is a key mechanism for temporal attention. In psychology and especially in vision, attentional blink is the most established paradigm to study temporal attention. Nevertheless, as far as I know, few studies try to link neural entrainment in the cognitive neuroscience literature with attentional blink in the psychology literature. The current study, however, bridges this gap.

    The study provides new evidence for the dynamic attending theory using the attentional blink paradigm. Furthermore, it is shown that neural entrainment to the sensory rhythm, measured by EEG, is related to the attentional blink effect. The authors also show that event/chunk boundaries are not enough to modulate the attentional blink effect, and suggest that strict rhythmicity is required to modulate attention in time.

    In general, I enjoyed reading the manuscript and only have a few relatively minor concerns.

    1. Details about EEG analysis.

    . First, each epoch is from -600 ms before the stimulus onset to 1600 ms after the stimulus onset. Therefore, the epoch is 2200 s in duration. However, zero-padding is needed to make the epoch duration 2000 s (for 0.5-Hz resolution). This is confusing. Furthermore, for a more conservative analysis, I recommend to also analyze the response between 400 ms and 1600 ms, to avoid the onset response, and show the results in a supplementary figure. The short duration reduces the frequency resolution but still allows seeing a 2.5-Hz response.

    Thanks for the comments. Each epoch was indeed segmented from -600 to 1600 ms relative to the stimulus onset, but in the spectrum analysis, we only used EEG signals from stream onset (i.e., time point 0) to 1600 ms (see the Materials and Methods section) to investigate the oscillatory characteristics of the neural responses purely elicited by rhythmic stimuli. The 1.6-s signals were zero-padded into a 2-s duration to achieve a frequency resolution of 0.5 Hz.

    According to the reviewer’s suggestion, we analyzed the EEG signals from 400 ms to 1600 ms relative to stream onset to avoid potential influence of the onset response, and showed the results in Figure 4. Basically, we can still observe spectral peaks at the stimulus frequencies of 2.5, 5 (the harmonic of 2.5 Hz), and 10 Hz for both power and ITPC spectrum. However, the peak magnitudes were much weaker than those of 1.6-s signals especially for 2.5 Hz, and the 2.5-Hz power did not survive the multiple comparisons correction across frequencies (FDR threshold of p < .05), which might be due to the relatively low signal-to-noise ratio for the analysis based on the 1.2-s epochs (only three cycles to estimate the activity at 2.5 Hz). Importantly, we did identify a significant cluster for 2.5 Hz ITPC in the left parieto-occipital region showing a positive correlation with the individuals’ BMI (Fig. R3; CP5, TP7, P5, P7, PO5, PO7, O1; r = .538, p = .016), which is consistent with the findings based on the longer epochs.

    Fig. R3. Neural entrainment to contextual rhythms during the period of 400–1600 ms from stream onset. (A) The spectrum for inter-trial phase coherence (ITPC) of EEG signals from 400 to 1600 ms after the stimulus onset. Shaded areas indicate standard errors of the mean. (B) The 2.5-Hz ITPC was significantly correlated with the behavioral modulation index (BMI) in a parieto-occipital cluster, as indicated by orange stars in the scalp topographic map.

    Second, "The preprocessed EEG signals were first corrected by subtracting the average activity of the entire stream for each epoch, and then averaged across trials for each condition, each participant, and each electrode." I have several concerns about this procedure.

    (A) What is the entire stream? It's the average over time?

    Yes, as for the power spectrum analysis, EEG signals were first demeaned by subtracting the average signals of the entire stream over time from onset to offset (i.e., from 0 to 1600 ms) before further analysis. We performed this procedure following previous studies on the entrainment to visual rhythms (Spaak et al., 2014). We have clarified this point in the “Power analysis” part of the Materials and Methods section (page 25, line 677).

    References:

    Spaak, E., Lange, F. P. de, & Jensen, O. (2014). Local Entrainment of Alpha Oscillations by Visual Stimuli Causes Cyclic Modulation of Perception. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(10), 3536–3544. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4385-13.2014

    (B) I suggest to do the Fourier transform first and average the spectrum over participants and electrodes. Averaging the EEG waveforms require the assumption that all electrodes/participants have the same response phase, which is not necessarily true.

    Thanks for the suggestion. In an AB paradigm, the evoked neural responses are sufficiently time-locked to the periodic stimulation, so it is reasonable to quantify power estimate with spectral decomposition performed on trial-averaged EEG signals (i.e., evoked power). Moreover, our results of inter-trial phase coherence (ITPC), which estimated the phase-locking value across trials based on single-trial decomposed phase values, also provided supporting evidence that the EEG waveforms were temporally locked across trials to the 2.5-Hz temporal structure in the context session.

    Nevertheless, we also took the reviewer’s suggestion seriously and analyzed the power spectrum on the average of single-trial spectral transforms, i.e., the induced power, which puts emphasis on the intrinsic non-phase-locked activities. In line with the results of evoked power and ITPC, the induced power spectrum in context session also peaked at 2.5 Hz and was significantly stronger than that in baseline session at 2.5 Hz (t(15) = 4.186, p < .001, FDR-corrected with a p value threshold < .001). Importantly, Person correlation analysis also revealed a positive cluster in the left parieto-occipital region, indicating the induced power at 2.5 Hz also had strong relevance with the attentional modulation effect (P7, PO7, PO5, PO3; r = .606, p = .006). We have added these additional findings to the revised manuscript (page 11, line 288; see also Figure 4—figure supplement 1).

    1. The sequences are short, only containing 16 items and 4 cycles. Furthermore, the targets are presented in the 2nd or 3rd cycle. I suspect that a stronger effect may be observed if the sequence are longer, since attention may not well entrain to the external stimulus until a few cycles. In the first trial of the experiment, they participant may not have a chance to realize that the task-irrelevant auditory/visual stimulus has a cyclic nature and it is not likely that their attention will entrain to such cycles. As the experiment precedes, they learns that the stimulus is cyclic and may allocate their attention rhythmically. Therefore, I feel that the participants do not just rely on the rhythmic information within a trial but also rely on the stimulus history. Please discuss why short sequences are used and whether it is possible to see buildup of the effect over trials or over cycles within a trial.

    Thanks for the comments. Typically, to induce a classic pattern of AB effect, the RSVP stream should contain 3–7 distractors before the first target (T1), with varying lengths of distractors (0–7) between two targets and at least 2 items after the second target (T2). In our study, we created the RSVP streams following these rules, which allowed us to observe the typical AB effect that T2 performance was deteriorated at Lag 2 relative to that at Lag 8. Nevertheless, we agree with the reviewer that longer streams would be better for building up the attentional entrainment effect, as we did observe the attentional modulation effect ramped up as the stream proceeded over cycles, consistent with the reviewer’s speculation. In Experiments 1a (using auditory context) and 2a (using color-defined visual context), we adopted two sets of target positions—an early one where T2 appeared at the 6th or 8th position (in the 2nd cycle) of the visual stream, and a late one where T2 appeared at the 10th or 12th position (in the 3rd cycle) of the visual stream. In the manuscript, we reported T2 performance with all the target positions combined, as no significant interaction was found between the target positions and the experimental conditions (ps. > .1). However, additional analysis demonstrated a trend toward an increase of the attentional modulation effect over cycles, from the early to the late positions. As shown in Fig. R4, the modulation effect went stronger and reached significance for the late positions (for Experiment 1a, t(15) = 2.83, p = .013, Cohen’s d = 0.707; for Experiment 2a, t(15) = 3.656, p = .002, Cohen’s d = 0.914) but showed a weaker trend for the early positions (for Experiment 1a, t(15) = 1.049, p = .311, Cohen’s d = 0.262; for Experiment 2a, t(15) = .606, p = .553, Cohen’s d = 0.152).

    Fig. R4. Attentional modulation effect built up over cycles in Experiments 1a & 2a. Error bars represent 1 SEM; * p<0.05, ** p<0.01.

    However, we did not observe an obvious buildup effect across trials in our study. The modulation effect of contextual rhythms seems to be a quick process that the effect is evident in the first quarter of trials in Experiment 1a (for, t(15) = 2.703, p = .016, Cohen’s d = 0.676) and in the second quarter of trials in Experiment 2a (for, t(15) = 2.478, p = .026, Cohen’s d = 0.620.

    1. The term "cycle" is used without definition in Results. Please define and mention that it's an abstract term and does not require the stimulus to have "cycles".

    Thanks for the suggestion. By its definition, the term “cycle” refers to “an interval of time during which a sequence of a recurring succession of events or phenomena is completed” or “a course or series of events or operations that recur regularly and usually lead back to the starting point” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). In the current study, we stuck to the recurrent and regular nature of “cycle” in general while defined the specific meaning of “cycle” by feature-based periodic changes of the contextual stimuli in each experiment (page 5, line 101; also refer to Procedures in the Materials and Methods section for details). For example, in Experiment 1a, the background tone sequence changed its pitch value from high to low or vice versa isochronously at a rate of 2.5 Hz, thus forming a rhythmic context with structure-based cycles of 400 ms. Note that we did not use the more general term “chunk”, because arbitrary chunks without the regularity of cycles are insufficient to trigger the attentional modulation effect in the current study. Indeed, the effect was eliminated when we replaced the rhythmic cycles with irregular chunks (Experiments 1d & 1e).

    1. Entrainment of attention is not necessarily related to neural entrainment to sensory stimulus, and there is considerable debate about whether neural entrainment to sensory stimulus should be called entrainment. Too much emphasis on terminology is of course counterproductive but a short discussion on these issues is probably necessary.

    Thanks for the comments. As commonly accepted, entrainment is defined as the alignment of intrinsic neuronal activity to the temporal structure of external rhythmic inputs (Lakatos et al., 2019; Obleser & Kayser, 2019). Here, we are interested in the functional roles of cortical entrainment to the higher-order temporal structure imposed on first-order sensory stimulation, and used the term entrainment to describe the phase-locking neural responses to such hierarchical structure following literature on auditory and visual perception (Brookshire et al., 2017; Doelling & Poeppel, 2015). In our study, the consistent results of power and ITPC have provided strong evidence that neural entrainment at the structure level (2.5 Hz) is significantly correlated with the observed attentional modulation effect. However, this does not mean that the entrainment of attention is necessarily associated with neural entrainment to sensory stimulus in a broader context, as attention may also be guided by predictions based on non-isochronous temporal regularity without requiring stimulus-based oscillatory entrainment (Breska & Deouell, 2017; Morillon et al._2016).

    On the other hand, there has been a debate about whether the neural alignment to rhythmic stimulation reflects active entrainment of endogenous oscillatory processes (i.e., induced activity) or a series of passively evoked steady-state responses (Keitel et al., 2019; Notbohm et al., 2016; Zoefel et al., 2018). The latter process is also referred to as “entrainment in a broad sense” by Obleser & Kayser (2019). Given that a presented rhythm always evokes event-related potentials, a better question might be whether the observed alignment reflects the entrainment of endogenous oscillations in addition to evoked steady-state responses. Here we attempted to tackle this issue by measuring the induced power, which emphasizes the intrinsic non-phase-locked activity, in addition to the phase-locked evoked power. Specifically, we quantified these two kinds of activities with the average of single-trial EEG power spectra and the power spectra of trial-averaged EEG signals, respectively, according to Keitel et al. (2019). In addition to the observation of evoked responses to the contextual structure, we also demonstrated an attention-related neural tracking of the higher-order temporal structure based on the induced power at 2.5 Hz (see Figure 4—figure supplement 1), suggesting that the observed attentional modulation effect is at least partially derived from the entrainment of intrinsic oscillatory brain activity. We have briefly discussed this point in the revised manuscript (page 17, line 460).

    References:

    Breska, A., & Deouell, L. Y. (2017). Neural mechanisms of rhythm-based temporal prediction: Delta phase-locking reflects temporal predictability but not rhythmic entrainment. PLOS Biology, 15(2), e2001665. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2001665

    Brookshire, G., Lu, J., Nusbaum, H. C., Goldin-Meadow, S., & Casasanto, D. (2017). Visual cortex entrains to sign language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(24), 6352–6357. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1620350114

    Doelling, K. B., & Poeppel, D. (2015). Cortical entrainment to music and its modulation by expertise. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), E6233–E6242. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1508431112

    Henry, M. J., Herrmann, B., & Obleser, J. (2014). Entrained neural oscillations in multiple frequency bands comodulate behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(41), 14935–14940. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1408741111

    Keitel, C., Keitel, A., Benwell, C. S. Y., Daube, C., Thut, G., & Gross, J. (2019). Stimulus-Driven Brain Rhythms within the Alpha Band: The Attentional-Modulation Conundrum. The Journal of Neuroscience, 39(16), 3119–3129. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1633-18.2019

    Lakatos, P., Gross, J., & Thut, G. (2019). A New Unifying Account of the Roles of Neuronal Entrainment. Current Biology, 29(18), R890–R905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.075

    Morillon, B., Schroeder, C. E., Wyart, V., & Arnal, L. H. (2016). Temporal Prediction in lieu of Periodic Stimulation. Journal of Neuroscience, 36(8), 2342–2347. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0836-15.2016

    Notbohm, A., Kurths, J., & Herrmann, C. S. (2016). Modification of Brain Oscillations via Rhythmic Light Stimulation Provides Evidence for Entrainment but Not for Superposition of Event-Related Responses. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00010

    Obleser, J., & Kayser, C. (2019). Neural Entrainment and Attentional Selection in the Listening Brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23(11), 913–926. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2019.08.004

    Zoefel, B., ten Oever, S., & Sack, A. T. (2018). The Involvement of Endogenous Neural Oscillations in the Processing of Rhythmic Input: More Than a Regular Repetition of Evoked Neural Responses. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00095

    Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

    The current experiment tests whether the attentional blink is affected by higher-order regularity based on rhythmic organization of contextual features (pitch, color, or motion). The results show that this is indeed the case: the AB effect is smaller when two targets appeared in two adjacent cycles (between-cycle condition) than within the same cycle defined by the background sounds. Experiment 2 shows that this also holds for temporal regularities in the visual domain and Experiment 3 for motion. Additional EEG analysis indicated that the findings obtained can be explained by cortical entrainment to the higher-order contextual structure. Critically feature-based structure of contextual rhythms at 2.5 Hz was correlated with the strength of the attentional modulation effect.

    This is an intriguing and exciting finding. It is a clever and innovative approach to reduce the attention blink by presenting a rhythmic higher-order regularity. It is convincing that this pulling out of the AB is driven by cortical entrainment. Overall, the paper is clear, well written and provides adequate control conditions. There is a lot to like about this paper. Yet, there are particular concerns that need to be addressed. Below I outline these concerns:

    1. The most pressing concern is the behavioral data. We have to ensure that we are dealing here with a attentional blink. The way the data is presented is not the typical way this is done. Typically in AB designs one see the T2 performance when T1 is ignored relative to when T1 has to be detected. This data is not provided. I am not sure whether this data is collected but if so the reader should see this.

    Many thanks for the suggestion. We appreciate the reviewer for his/her thoughtful comments. To demonstrate the AB effect, we did include two T2 lag conditions in our study (Experiments 1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b)—a short-SOA condition where T2 was located at the second lag of T1 (i.e., SOA = 200 ms), and a long-SOA condition where T2 appeared at the 8th lag of T1 (i.e., SOA = 800 ms). In a typical AB effect, T2 performance at short lags is remarkably impaired compared with that at long lags. In our study, we consistently replicated this effect across the experiments, as reported in the Results section of Experiment 1 (page 5, line 106). Overall, the T2 detection accuracy conditioned on correct T1 response was significantly impaired in the short-SOA condition relative to that in the long-SOA condition (mean accuracy > 0.9 for all experiments), during both the context session and the baseline session. More crucially, when looking into the magnitude of the AB effect as measured by (ACClong-SOA - ACCshort-SOA)/ACClong-SOA, we still obtained a significant attentional modulation effect (for Experiment 1a, t(15) = -2.729, p = .016, Cohen’s d = 0.682; for Experiment 2a, t(15) = -4.143, p <.001, Cohen’s d = 1.036) similar to that reflected by the short-SOA condition alone, further confirming that cortical entrainment effectively influences the AB effect.

    Although we included both the long- and short-SOA conditions in the current study, we focused on T2 performance in the short-SOA condition rather than along the whole AB curve for the following reasons. Firstly, for the long-SOA conditions, the T2 performance is at ceiling level, making it an inappropriate baseline to probe the attentional modulation effect. We focused on Lag 2 because previous research has identified a robust AB effect around the second lag (Raymond et al., 1992), which provides a reasonable and sensitive baseline to probe the potential modulation effect of the contextual auditory and visual rhythms. Note that instead of using multiple lags, we varied the length of the rhythmic cycles (i.e., a cycle of 300 ms, 400 ms, and 500 ms corresponding to a rhythm frequency of 3.3 Hz, 2.5 Hz, and 2 Hz, respectively, all within the delta band), and showed that the attentional modulation effect could be generalized to these different delta-band rhythmic contexts, regardless of the absolute positions of the targets within the rhythmic cycles.

    As to the T1 performance, the overall accuracy was very high, ranging from 0.907 to 0.972, in all of our experiments. The corresponding results have been added to the Results section of the revised manuscript (page 5, line 103). Notably, we did not find T1-T2 trade-offs in most of our experiments, except in Experiment 2a where T1 performance showed a moderate decrease in the between-cycle condition relative to that in the within-cycle condition (mean ± SE: 0.888 ± 0.026 vs. 0.933 ± 0.016, respectively; t(15) = -2.217, p = .043). However, by examining the relationship between the modulation effects (i.e., the difference between the two experimental conditions) on T1 and T2, we did not find any significant correlation (p = .403), suggesting that the better performance for T2 was not simply due to the worse performance in detecting T1.

    Finally, previous studies have shown that ignoring T1 would lead to ceiling-level T2 performance (Raymond et al., 1992). Therefore, we did not include such manipulation in the current study, as in that case, it would be almost impossible for us to detect any contextual modulation effect.

    References:

    Raymond, J. E., Shapiro, K. L., & Arnell, K. M. (1992). Temporary suppression of visual processing in an RSVP task: An attentional blink? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 18(3), 849–860. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-1523.18.3.849

    1. Also, there is only one lag tested. The ensure that we are dealing here with a true AB I would like to see that more than one lag is tested. In the ideal situation a full AB curve should be presented that includes several lags. This should be done for at least for one of the experiments. It would be informative as we can see how cortical entrainment affects the whole AB curve.

    Many thanks for the suggestion. Please refer to our response to the point #1 for “Reviewer #3 (Public Review)”. In short, we did include two T2 lag conditions in our study (Experiments 1a, 1b, 2a and 2b), and the results replicated the typical AB effect. We have clarified this point in the revised manuscript (page 5, line 106).

    1. Also, there is no data regarding T1 performance. It is important to show that this the better performance for T2 is not due to worse performance in detecting T1. So also please provide this data.

    Many thanks for the suggestion. Please refer to our response to the point #1 or “Reviewer #3 (Public Review)”. We have reported the T1 performance in the revised manuscript (page 5, line 103), and the results didn’t show obvious T1-T2 trade-offs.

    1. The authors identify the oscillatory characteristics of EEG signals in response to stimulus rhythms, by examined the FFT spectral peaks by subtracting the mean power of two nearest neighboring frequencies from the power at the stimulus frequency. I am not familiar with this procedure and would like to see some justification for using this technique.

    According to previous studies (Nozaradan, 2011; Lenc e al., 2018), the procedure to subtract the average amplitude of neighboring frequency bins can remove unrelated background noise, like muscle activity or eye movement. If there were no EEG oscillatory responses characteristic of stimulus rhythms, the amplitude at a given frequency bin should be similar to the average of its neighbors, and thus no significant peaks could be observed in the subtracted spectrum.

    References:

    Lenc, T., Keller, P. E., Varlet, M., & Nozaradan, S. (2018). Neural tracking of the musical beat is enhanced by low-frequency sounds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(32), 8221–8226. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1801421115

    Nozaradan, S., Peretz, I., Missal, M., & Mouraux, A. (2011). Tagging the Neuronal Entrainment to Beat and Meter. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(28), 10234–10240. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0411-11.2011

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  2. Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

    The current experiment tests whether the attentional blink is affected by higher-order regularity based on rhythmic organization of contextual features (pitch, color, or motion). The results show that this is indeed the case: the AB effect is smaller when two targets appeared in two adjacent cycles (between-cycle condition) than within the same cycle defined by the background sounds. Experiment 2 shows that this also holds for temporal regularities in the visual domain and Experiment 3 for motion. Additional EEG analysis indicated that the findings obtained can be explained by cortical entrainment to the higher-order contextual structure. Critically feature-based structure of contextual rhythms at 2.5 Hz was correlated with the strength of the attentional modulation effect.

    This is an intriguing and exciting finding. It is a clever and innovative approach to reduce the attention blink by presenting a rhythmic higher-order regularity. It is convincing that this pulling out of the AB is driven by cortical entrainment. Overall, the paper is clear, well written and provides adequate control conditions. There is a lot to like about this paper. Yet, there are particular concerns that need to be addressed. Below I outline these concerns:

    1. The most pressing concern is the behavioral data. We have to ensure that we are dealing here with a attentional blink. The way the data is presented is not the typical way this is done. Typically in AB designs one see the T2 performance when T1 is ignored relative to when T1 has to be detected. This data is not provided. I am not sure whether this data is collected but if so the reader should see this.

    2. Also, there is only one lag tested. The ensure that we are dealing here with a true AB I would like to see that more than one lag is tested. In the ideal situation a full AB curve should be presented that includes several lags. This should be done for at least for one of the experiments. It would be informative as we can see how cortical entrainment affects the whole AB curve.

    3. Also, there is no data regarding T1 performance. It is important to show that this the better performance for T2 is not due to worse performance in detecting T1. So also please provide this data.

    4. The authors identify the oscillatory characteristics of EEG signals in response to stimulus rhythms, by examined the FFT spectral peaks by subtracting the mean power of two nearest neighboring frequencies from the power at the stimulus frequency. I am not familiar with this procedure and would like to see some justification for using this technique

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  3. Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

    In cognitive neuroscience, a large number of studies proposed that neural entrainment, i.e., synchronization of neural activity and low-frequency external rhythms, is a key mechanism for temporal attention. In psychology and especially in vision, attentional blink is the most established paradigm to study temporal attention. Nevertheless, as far as I know, few studies try to link neural entrainment in the cognitive neuroscience literature with attentional blink in the psychology literature. The current study, however, bridges this gap.

    The study provides new evidence for the dynamic attending theory using the attentional blink paradigm. Furthermore, it is shown that neural entrainment to the sensory rhythm, measured by EEG, is related to the attentional blink effect. The authors also show that event/chunk boundaries are not enough to modulate the attentional blink effect, and suggest that strict rhythmicity is required to modulate attention in time.

    In general, I enjoyed reading the manuscript and only have a few relatively minor concerns.

    1. Details about EEG analysis.

      First, each epoch is from -600 ms before the stimulus onset to 1600 ms after the stimulus onset. Therefore, the epoch is 2200 s in duration. However, zero-padding is needed to make the epoch duration 2000 s (for 0.5-Hz resolution). This is confusing. Furthermore, for a more conservative analysis, I recommend to also analyze the response between 400 ms and 1600 ms, to avoid the onset response, and show the results in a supplementary figure. The short duration reduces the frequency resolution but still allows seeing a 2.5-Hz response.

      Second, "The preprocessed EEG signals were first corrected by subtracting the average activity of the entire stream for each epoch, and then averaged across trials for each condition, each participant, and each electrode." I have several concerns about this procedure.

      (A) What is the entire stream? It's the average over time?

      (B) I suggest to do the Fourier transform first and average the spectrum over participants and electrodes. Averaging the EEG waveforms require the assumption that all electrodes/participants have the same response phase, which is not necessarily true.

    2. The sequences are short, only containing 16 items and 4 cycles. Furthermore, the targets are presented in the 2nd or 3rd cycle. I suspect that a stronger effect may be observed if the sequence are longer, since attention may not well entrain to the external stimulus until a few cycles. In the first trial of the experiment, they participant may not have a chance to realize that the task-irrelevant auditory/visual stimulus has a cyclic nature and it is not likely that their attention will entrain to such cycles. As the experiment precedes, they learns that the stimulus is cyclic and may allocate their attention rhythmically. Therefore, I feel that the participants do not just rely on the rhythmic information within a trial but also rely on the stimulus history. Please discuss why short sequences are used and whether it is possible to see buildup of the effect over trials or over cycles within a trial.

    3. The term "cycle" is used without definition in Results. Please define and mention that it's an abstract term and does not require the stimulus to have "cycles".

    4. Entrainment of attention is not necessarily related to neural entrainment to sensory stimulus, and there is considerable debate about whether neural entrainment to sensory stimulus should be called entrainment. Too much emphasis on terminology is of course counterproductive but a short discussion on these issues is probably necessary.

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  4. Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

    The work by Wang et al. examined how task-irrelevant, high-order rhythmic context could rescue the attentional blink effect via reorganizing items into different temporal chunks, as well as the neural correlates. In a series of behavioral experiments with several controls, they demonstrated that the detection performance of T2 was higher when occurring in different chunks from T1, compared to when T1 and T2 were in the same chunk. In EEG recordings, they further revealed that the chunk-related entrainment was significantly correlated with the behavioral effect, and the alpha-band power for T2 and its coupling to the low-frequency oscillation were also related to behavioral effect. They propose that the rhythmic context implements a second-order temporal structure to the first-order regularities posited in dynamic attention theory.

    Overall, I find the results interesting and convincing, particularly the behavioral part. The manuscript is clearly written and the methods are sound. My major concerns are about the neural part, i.e., whether the work provides new scientific insights to our understanding of dynamic attention and its neural underpinnings.

    1. A general concern is whether the observed behavioral related neural index, e.g., alpha-band power, cross-frequency coupling, could be simply explained in terms of ERP response for T2. For example, when the ERP response for T2 is larger for between-chunk condition compared to within-chunk condition, the alpha-power for T2 would be also larger for between-chunk condition. Likewise, this might also explain the cross-frequency coupling results. The authors should do more control analyses to address the possibility, e.g., plotting the ERP response for the two conditions and regressing them out from the oscillatory index.

    2. The alpha-band increase for T2 is indeed contradictory to the well known inhibitory function of alpha-band in attention. How could a target that is better discriminated elicit stronger inhibitory response? Related to the above point, the observed enhancement in alpha-band power and its coupling to low-frequency oscillation might derive from an enhanced ERP response for T2 target.

    3. To support that it is the context-induced entrainment that leads to the modulation in AB effect, the authors could examine pre-T2 response, e.g., alpha-power, and cross-frequency coupling, as well as its relationship to behavioral performance. I think the pre-stimulus response might be more convincing to support the authors' claim.

    4. About the entrainment to rhythmic context and its relation to behavioral modulation index. Previous studies (e.g., Ding et al) have demonstrated the hierarchical temporal structure in speech signals, e.g., emergence of word-level entrainment introduced by language experience. Therefore, it is well expected that imposing a second-order structure on a visual stream would elicit the corresponding steady-state response. I understand that the new part and main focus here are the AB effects. The authors should add more texts explaining how their findings contribute new understandings to the neural mechanism for the intriguing phenomena.

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  5. Evaluation Summary:

    This study by Wang et al. used a series of carefully designed behavioral experiments to convincingly demonstrate that the attentional blink (AB) could be modulated by higher-order rhythmic regularity. EEG results further support the link between the elicited neural entrainment and the AB modulation effect. They propose that the rhythmic context implements a second-order temporal structure to the first-order regularities posited in dynamic attention theory.

    (This preprint has been reviewed by eLife. We include the public reviews from the reviewers here; the authors also receive private feedback with suggested changes to the manuscript. The reviewers remained anonymous to the authors.)

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