Nested synchrony - a novel cross-scale interaction among neuronal oscillations

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    Neuronal interactions form the basis for our brain function, and oscillations and synchrony are the principal candidates for mediating them in the cortical networks. Phase synchrony, where oscillatory neuronal ensembles directly synchronize their phases, enables precise integration between separated brain regions. However, it is unclear how neuronal interactions are dynamically coordinated in space and over time. Cross-scale effects have been proposed to be responsible for linking levels of processing hierarchy and to regulate neuronal dynamics. Most notably, nested oscillations, where the phase of a neuronal oscillation modulates the amplitude of a faster one, may locally integrate neuronal activities in distinct frequency bands. Yet, hierarchical control of inter-areal synchrony could provide a more comprehensive view to the dynamical structure of oscillatory interdependencies in the human brain. In this study, the notion of nested oscillations is extended to a cross-frequency and inter-areal model of oscillatory interactions. In this model, the phase of a slower oscillation modulates inter-areal synchrony in a higher frequency band. This would allow cross-scale integration of global interactions and, thus, offers a mechanism for binding distributed neuronal activities. We show that inter-areal phase synchrony can be modulated by the phase of a slower neuronal oscillation using magnetoencephalography (MEG). This effect is the most pronounced at frequencies below 35 Hz. Importantly, changes in oscillation amplitudes did not explain the findings. We expect that the novel cross-frequency interaction could offer new ways to understand the flexible but accurate dynamic organization of ongoing neuronal oscillations and synchrony.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number384
    Pages (from-to)1-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • neuronal oscillations
    • magnetoencephalography
    • nested oscillations
    • oscillation synchrony


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