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Curr Biol. 2019 Sep 9;29(17):2801-2811.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.014. Epub 2019 Aug 15.

Large-Scale Communication in the Human Brain Is Rhythmically Modulated through Alpha Coherence.

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Surgical Neurology Branch, NINDS, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
Office of the Clinical Director, NINDS, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
Surgical Neurology Branch, NINDS, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. Electronic address:


Recent evidence has suggested that coherent neuronal oscillations may serve as a gating mechanism for flexibly modulating communication between brain regions. For this to occur, such oscillations should be robust and coherent between brain regions that also demonstrate time-locked correlations, with time delays that match the phase delays of the coherent oscillations. Here, by analyzing functional connectivity in both the time and frequency domains, we demonstrate that alpha oscillations satisfy these constraints and are well suited for modulating communication over large spatial scales in the human brain. We examine intracranial EEG in the human temporal lobe and find robust alpha oscillations that are coherent between brain regions with center frequencies that are consistent within each individual participant. Regions demonstrating coherent narrowband oscillations also exhibit time-locked broadband correlations with a consistent time delay, a requirement for an efficient communication channel. The phase delays of the coherent alpha oscillations match the time delays of the correlated components, and importantly, both broadband correlations and neuronal spiking activity are modulated by the phase of the oscillations. These results are specific to the alpha band and build upon emerging evidence suggesting that alpha oscillations may play an active role in cortical function. Our data therefore provide evidence that large-scale communication in the human brain may be rhythmically modulated by alpha oscillations.


alpha; coherence; communication; connectivity; correlation; electrophysiology; functional; human; information; intracranial EEG

[Available on 2020-09-09]

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