Bright illumination reduces parietal EEG alpha activity during a sustained attention task

Byoung-Kyong Min, Young Chul Jung, Eosu Kim, Jin Young Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The influence of the illumination condition on our cognitive-performance seems to be more critical in the modern life, wherein, most people work in an office under a specific illumination condition. However, neurophysiological changes in a specific illumination state and their cognitive interpretation still remain unclear. Thereby, in the present study, the effect of different illumination conditions on the same cognitive performance was evaluated particularly by EEG wavelet analyses. During a sustained attention task, we observed that the higher illumination condition yielded significantly lower parietal tonic electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha activity before the presentation of the probe digit and longer reaction times, than that of the other illumination conditions. Although previous studies suggest that lower prestimulus EEG alpha activity is related to higher performance in an upcoming task, the reduced prestimulus alpha activity under higher illumination was associated with delayed reaction times in the present study. Presumably, the higher background illumination condition seems to be too bright for normal attentional processing and distracted participants' attention during a sustained attention task. Such a bottom-up effect by stimulus salience seemed to overwhelm a prestimulus top-down effect reflected in prestimulus alpha power during the bright background condition. This finding might imply a dynamic competition between prestimulus top-down and poststimulus bottom-up processes. Our findings provide compelling evidence that the illumination condition substantially modulates our attentional processing. Further refinement of the illumination parameters and subsequent exploration of cognitive-modulation are necessary to facilitate our cognitive performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-92
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Nov 13


  • Alpha activity
  • Attention
  • Color-temperature
  • EEG
  • Illumination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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