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Front Hum Neurosci. 2010 Oct 14;4:177. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2010.00177. eCollection 2010.

Rhythmic pulsing: linking ongoing brain activity with evoked responses.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen Nijmegen, Netherlands.


The conventional assumption in human cognitive electrophysiology using EEG and MEG is that the presentation of a particular event such as visual or auditory stimuli evokes a "turning on" of additional brain activity that adds to the ongoing background activity. Averaging multiple event-locked trials is thought to result in the cancellation of the seemingly random phased ongoing activity while leaving the evoked response. However, recent work strongly challenges this conventional view and demonstrates that the ongoing activity is not averaged out due to specific non-sinusoidal properties. As a consquence, systematic modulations in ongoing activity can produce slow cortical evoked responses reflecting cognitive processing. In this review we introduce the concept of "rhythmic pulsing" to account for this specific non-sinusoidal property. We will explain how rhythmic pulsing can create slow evoked responses from a physiological perspective. We will also discuss how the notion of rhythmic pulsing provides a unifying framework linking ongoing oscillations, evoked responses and the brain's capacity to process incoming information.


alpha oscillations; amplitude asymmetry; evoked responses; inhibition

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