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Trends Neurosci. 2015 Nov;38(11):725-740. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2015.09.001.

Neural Cross-Frequency Coupling: Connecting Architectures, Mechanisms, and Functions.

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Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience, Roc Boronat 138, 08018 Barcelona, Spain; Research Unit, Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu and Universitat de Barcelona, Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:
Department of Neuroscience, University of Geneva, Campus Biotech, 9 chemin des Mines, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.
Group for Neural Theory, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) Unité 960, Département d'Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 29 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France; Centre for Cognition and Decision Making, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Myasnitskaya Street 20, Moscow 101000, Russia.


Neural oscillations are ubiquitously observed in the mammalian brain, but it has proven difficult to tie oscillatory patterns to specific cognitive operations. Notably, the coupling between neural oscillations at different timescales has recently received much attention, both from experimentalists and theoreticians. We review the mechanisms underlying various forms of this cross-frequency coupling. We show that different types of neural oscillators and cross-frequency interactions yield distinct signatures in neural dynamics. Finally, we associate these mechanisms with several putative functions of cross-frequency coupling, including neural representations of multiple environmental items, communication over distant areas, internal clocking of neural processes, and modulation of neural processing based on temporal predictions.


computational models; cross-frequency coupling; neural communication; neural oscillations; sequence representation; stimulus parsing

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