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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012 Dec;14(4):345-67.

Brain rhythms and neural syntax: implications for efficient coding of cognitive content and neuropsychiatric disease.

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NYU Neuroscience Institute, School of Medicine, New York University, New York, NY 10016, USA.


in English, French, Spanish

The perpetual activity of the cerebral cortex is largely supported by the variety of oscillations the brain generates, spanning a number of frequencies and anatomical locations, as well as behavioral correlates. First, we review findings from animal studies showing that most forms of brain rhythms are inhibition-based, producing rhythmic volleys of inhibitory inputs to principal cell populations, thereby providing alternating temporal windows of relatively reduced and enhanced excitability in neuronal networks. These inhibition-based mechanisms offer natural temporal frames to group or "chunk" neuronal activity into cell assemblies and sequences of assemblies, with more complex multi-oscillation interactions creating syntactical rules for the effective exchange of information among cortical networks. We then review recent studies in human psychiatric patients demonstrating a variety alterations in neural oscillations across all major psychiatric diseases, and suggest possible future research directions and treatment approaches based on the fundamental properties of brain rhythms.


action potential; assembly; brain; coding; neuron; oscillation; psychiatry

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