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PLoS One. 2015 Jun 3;10(6):e0128667. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128667. eCollection 2015.

Gamma activity coupled to alpha phase as a mechanism for top-down controlled gating.

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


Coupling between neural oscillations in different frequency bands has been proposed to coordinate neural processing. In particular, gamma power coupled to alpha phase is proposed to reflect gating of information in the visual system but the existence of such a mechanism remains untested. Here, we recorded ongoing brain activity using magnetoencephalography in subjects who performed a modified Sternberg working memory task in which distractors were presented in the retention interval. During the anticipatory pre-distractor period, we show that the phase of alpha oscillations was coupled with the power of high (80-120Hz) gamma band activity, i.e. gamma power consistently was lower at the trough than at the peak of the alpha cycle (9-12Hz). We further show that high alpha power was associated with weaker gamma power at the trough of the alpha cycle. This result is in line with alpha activity in sensory region implementing a mechanism of pulsed inhibition silencing neuronal firing every ~100 ms.

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