Functional roles of alpha-band phase synchronization in local and large-scale cortical networks

Satu Palva*, J. Matias Palva

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

255 Citations (Scopus)


Alpha-frequency band (8-14 Hz) oscillations are among the most salient phenomena in human electroencephalography (EEG) recordings and yet their functional roles have remained unclear. Much of research on alpha oscillations in human EEG has focused on peri-stimulus amplitude dynamics, which phenomenologically support an idea of alpha oscillations being negatively correlated with local cortical excitability and having a role in the suppression of task-irrelevant neuronal processing. This kind of an inhibitory role for alpha oscillations is also supported by several functional magnetic resonance imaging and trans-cranial magnetic stimulation studies. Nevertheless, investigations of local and inter-areal alpha phase dynamics suggest that the alpha-frequency band rhythmicity may play a role also in active task-relevant neuronal processing. These data imply that inter-areal alpha phase synchronization could support attentional, executive, and contextual functions. In this review, we outline evidence supporting different views on the roles of alpha oscillations in cortical networks and unresolved issues that should be addressed to resolve or reconcile these apparently contrasting hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 204
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Alpha
  • Amplitude
  • Electroencephalography
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Phase
  • Source modeling
  • Synchrony


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