Saskia Haegens

Associate PI at Donders Institute (Nijmegen, Netherlands)/Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University Medical Center

In daily life our brains receive a continuous stream of sensory input. Effective processing in a complex natural environment requires attention: selection of relevant input and suppression of irrelevant information. Recent work shows that brain activity reflecting the internal state prior to perception is highly relevant for subsequent processing of external information. In particular, (anticipatory) oscillatory brain activity in the alpha frequency band (8-14 Hz) is thought to reflect functional inhibition: decreased alpha facilitates processing whereas increased alpha functions to suppress distracting input. My recent research focusing on the somatosensory system has provided substantial evidence for this functional role of the alpha rhythm and its consequences for behaviour. However, the underlying neurophysiological mechanism remains surprisingly ill-understood. How exactly do alpha oscillations influence neuronal processing? My current research aims to answer this highly relevant question. Using intracranial recordings, I will test the hypothesis that alpha oscillations modulate neuronal processing in a phasic manner in order to allocate attention.

Sample Publications

  1. Haegens S, Cousijn H, Wallis G, Harrison PJ & Nobre AC. (2014) Inter- and intra-individual variability in alpha peak frequency. NeuroImage, 92, 46-55. [pdf]
  2. Haegens S, Luther L, & Jensen O. (2012) Somatosensory anticipatory alpha activity increases to suppress distracting input. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(3), 677-685. [pdf]
  3. Haegens S, Nácher V, Luna R, Romo R, & Jensen O. (2011) Alpha oscillations in the monkey sensorimotor network influence discrimination performance by rhythmical inhibition of neuronal spiking. PNAS, 108(48), 19377–19382. [pdf]
  4. Haegens S, Nácher V, Hernández A, Luna R, Jensen O, & Romo R. (2011) Beta oscillations in the monkey sensorimotor network reflect somatosensory decision making. PNAS, 108(26), 10708–10713. [pdf]
  5. Haegens S, Händel B, & Jensen O. (2011) Top-down controlled alpha band activity in somatosensory areas determines behavioral performance in a discrimination task. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(14), 5197-5204. [pdf]