New paper from the Miller Lab:
Miller, E.K. and Buschman, T.J. “Brain Rhythms for Cognition and Consciousness”. Neurosciences and the Human Person: New Perspectives on Human Activities A. Battro, S. Dehaene and W. Singer (eds), Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Scripta Varia 121, Vatican City, 2013. View PDF
We have discussed how rhythmic synchrony can provide a fundamental backbone for forming and coordinating interactions within and across disparate neural networks. The act of putting neural activity from specific neurons in precise lockstep with specific other neurons may form the ensemble representing a specific thought and regulate which ensembles and larger networks “talk” to one another. The implication is that the signals that underlie cognition do not operate continuously, but rather discretely, with pulses of activity routing packets of information. The advantage is that it constrains and shapes the flow of neural signals. In other words, the brain’s physical infrastructure (i.e., its anatomy) dictates where neural signals can flow; synchronized rhythms dictate where signals do flow. However, this comes at a cost. Any coding scheme based on repeated rhythmic activity is naturally limited in bandwidth; only so many things can be computed or carried in a single oscillatory cycle. This may explain the most fundamental property of conscious thought, its limited capacity.
About the Author
The Miller Lab uses experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of the high-level cognitive functions that underlie complex goal-directed behavior. ekmillerlab.mit.edu