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J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 30;31(13):4935-43. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5580-10.2011.

Neuronal mechanisms and attentional modulation of corticothalamic α oscillations.

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J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA.


Field potential oscillations in the ∼10 Hz range are known as the alpha rhythm. The genesis and function of alpha has been the subject of intense investigation for the past 80 years. Whereas early work focused on the thalamus as the pacemaker of alpha rhythm, subsequent slice studies revealed that pyramidal neurons in the deep layers of sensory cortices are capable of oscillating in the alpha frequency range independently. How thalamic and cortical generating mechanisms in the intact brain might interact to shape the organization and function of alpha oscillations remains unclear. We addressed this problem by analyzing laminar profiles of local field potential and multiunit activity (MUA) recorded with linear array multielectrodes from the striate cortex of two macaque monkeys performing an intermodal selective attention task. Current source density (CSD) analysis was combined with CSD-MUA coherence to identify intracortical alpha current generators and assess their potential for pacemaking. Coherence and Granger causality analysis was applied to delineate the patterns of interaction among different alpha current generators. We found that (1) separable alpha current generators are located in superficial, granular, and deep layers, with both layer 4C and deep layers containing primary local pacemaking generators, suggesting the involvement of the thalamocortical network, and (2) visual attention reduces the magnitude of alpha oscillations as well as the level of alpha interactions, consistent with numerous reports of occipital alpha reduction with visual attention in human EEG. There is also indication that alpha oscillations in the lateral geniculate cohere with those in V1.

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