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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 29;108(48):19377-82. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117190108. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

α-Oscillations in the monkey sensorimotor network influence discrimination performance by rhythmical inhibition of neuronal spiking.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, 6500HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Extensive work in humans using magneto- and electroencephalography strongly suggests that decreased oscillatory α-activity (8-14 Hz) facilitates processing in a given region, whereas increased α-activity serves to actively suppress irrelevant or interfering processing. However, little work has been done to understand how α-activity is linked to neuronal firing. Here, we simultaneously recorded local field potentials and spikes from somatosensory, premotor, and motor regions while a trained monkey performed a vibrotactile discrimination task. In the local field potentials we observed strong activity in the α-band, which decreased in the sensorimotor regions during the discrimination task. This α-power decrease predicted better discrimination performance. Furthermore, the α-oscillations demonstrated a rhythmic relation with the spiking, such that firing was highest at the trough of the α-cycle. Firing rates increased with a decrease in α-power. These findings suggest that α-oscillations exercise a strong inhibitory influence on both spike timing and firing rate. Thus, the pulsed inhibition by α-oscillations plays an important functional role in the extended sensorimotor system.

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