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      Shaping Functional Architecture by Oscillatory Alpha Activity: Gating by Inhibition


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          In order to understand the working brain as a network, it is essential to identify the mechanisms by which information is gated between regions. We here propose that information is gated by inhibiting task-irrelevant regions, thus routing information to task-relevant regions. The functional inhibition is reflected in oscillatory activity in the alpha band (8–13 Hz). From a physiological perspective the alpha activity provides pulsed inhibition reducing the processing capabilities of a given area. Active processing in the engaged areas is reflected by neuronal synchronization in the gamma band (30–100 Hz) accompanied by an alpha band decrease. According to this framework the brain could be studied as a network by investigating cross-frequency interactions between gamma and alpha activity. Specifically the framework predicts that optimal task performance will correlate with alpha activity in task-irrelevant areas. In this review we will discuss the empirical support for this framework. Given that alpha activity is by far the strongest signal recorded by EEG and MEG, we propose that a major part of the electrophysiological activity detected from the working brain reflects gating by inhibition.

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          Most cited references 69

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          Synaptic mechanisms of synchronized gamma oscillations in inhibitory interneuron networks.

          Gamma frequency oscillations are thought to provide a temporal structure for information processing in the brain. They contribute to cognitive functions, such as memory formation and sensory processing, and are disturbed in some psychiatric disorders. Fast-spiking, parvalbumin-expressing, soma-inhibiting interneurons have a key role in the generation of these oscillations. Experimental analysis in the hippocampus and the neocortex reveals that synapses among these interneurons are highly specialized. Computational analysis further suggests that synaptic specialization turns interneuron networks into robust gamma frequency oscillators.
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            Über das Elektrenkephalogramm des Menschen

             Hans Berger (1929)
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              New vistas for alpha-frequency band oscillations.

               J Palva,  Satu Palva (2007)
              The amplitude of alpha-frequency band (8-14 Hz) activity in the human electroencephalogram is suppressed by eye opening, visual stimuli and visual scanning, whereas it is enhanced during internal tasks, such as mental calculation and working memory. alpha-Frequency band oscillations have hence been thought to reflect idling or inhibition of task-irrelevant cortical areas. However, recent data on alpha-amplitude and, in particular, alpha-phase dynamics posit a direct and active role for alpha-frequency band rhythmicity in the mechanisms of attention and consciousness. We propose that simultaneous alpha-, beta- (14-30 Hz) and gamma- (30-70 Hz) frequency band oscillations are required for unified cognitive operations, and hypothesize that cross-frequency phase synchrony between alpha, beta and gamma oscillations coordinates the selection and maintenance of neuronal object representations during working memory, perception and consciousness.

                Author and article information

                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front. Hum. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
                Frontiers Research Foundation
                05 July 2010
                04 November 2010
                : 4
                1Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands
                Author notes

                Edited by: Thilo Womelsdorf, Robarts Research Institute London, Canada

                Reviewed by: Tobias H. Donner, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Stephanie R. Jones, Massachusetts General Hospital, USA

                *Correspondence: Ole Jensen, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, P.O. Box 9101, NL-6500 HB Nijmegen, Netherlands.; e-mail: ole.jensen@ 123456donders.ru.nl
                Copyright © 2010 Jensen and Mazaheri.

                This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and the Frontiers Research Foundation, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 105, Pages: 8, Words: 8029
                Hypothesis and Theory Article


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