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Int J Psychophysiol. 2001 Dec;43(1):25-40.

Computational model of thalamo-cortical networks: dynamical control of alpha rhythms in relation to focal attention.

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Laboratory of Medical Physics, Institute of Experimental Physics, Warsaw University, Warsaw, Poland.


EEG/MEG rhythmic activities such as alpha rhythms, of the visual or of the somato-sensory cortex, are commonly modulated as subjects perform certain tasks or react to specific stimuli. In general, these activities change depending on extrinsic or intrinsic events. A decrease of the amplitude of alpha rhythmic activity occurring after a given event, which manifests as a decrease of a spectral peak, is called event-related desynchronization (ERD), whereas the inverse is called event-related synchronization (ERS), since it is assumed that the power of a spectral peak is related to the degree of synchrony of the underlying oscillating neuronal populations. An intriguing observation in this respect [Pfurtscheller and Neuper, Neurosci. Lett. 174 (1994) 93-96] was that ERD of alpha rhythms recorded over the central areas was accompanied by ERS, within the same frequency band, recorded over neighboring areas. In case the event was a hand movement, ERD was recorded over the scalp overlying the hand cortical area, whereas ERS was concomitantly recorded over the midline, whereas if the movement was of the foot the opposite was found. We called this phenomenon 'focal ERD/surround ERS'. The question of how this phenomenon may be generated was approached by means of a computational model of thalamo-cortical networks, that incorporates basic properties of neurons and synaptic interactions. These simulation studies revealed that this antagonistic ERD/ERS phenomenon depends on the functional interaction between the populations of thalamo-cortical cells (TCR) and reticular nucleus cells (RE) and on how this interaction is modulated by cholinergic inputs. An essential feature of this interaction is the existence of cross-talk between different sectors of RE that correspond to distinct sensory modules (e.g. hand, foot). These observations led us to formulate the hypothesis that this basic neurophysiological mechanism can account for the general observation that enhanced attention given to a certain stimulus (the focus) is coupled to inhibition of attention to other stimuli (the surround).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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