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J Neurosci. 2010 Mar 24;30(12):4481-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2794-09.2010.

Corticospinal beta-band synchronization entails rhythmic gain modulation.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre and Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, 6525 EN Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Rhythmic synchronization of neurons in the beta or gamma band occurs almost ubiquitously, and this synchronization has been linked to numerous nervous system functions. Many respective studies make the implicit assumption that neuronal synchronization affects neuronal interactions. Indeed, when neurons synchronize, their output spikes reach postsynaptic neurons together, trigger coincidence detection mechanisms, and therefore have an enhanced impact. There is ample experimental evidence demonstrating this consequence of neuronal synchronization, but beyond this, beta/gamma-band synchronization within a group of neurons might also modulate the impact of synaptic input to that synchronized group. This would constitute a separate mechanism through which synchronization affects neuronal interactions, but direct in vivo evidence for this putative mechanism is lacking. Here, we demonstrate that synchronized beta-band activity of a neuronal group modulates the efficacy of synaptic input to that group in-phase with the beta rhythm. This response modulation was not an addition of rhythmic activity onto the average response but a rhythmic modulation of multiplicative input gain. Our results demonstrate that beta-rhythmic activity of a neuronal target group multiplexes input gain along the rhythm cycle. The actual gain of an input then depends on the precision and the phase of its rhythmic synchronization to this target, providing one mechanistic explanation for why synchronization modulates interactions.

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