Totah et al find that increased synchrony between the prelimbic cortex and anterior cingulate cortex before stimulus onset predicted behavioral choices.  Further, there was a switch from beta synchrony during attention to delta synchrony before the behavioral response.  This shows, among other things, that the same neurons can participate in different functional networks by virtue of how that synchronize with other neurons.

This paper is one of several recent studies providing evidence that oscillatory synchrony allows multiplexing of neural function.  Here’s an excerpt from Miller and Fusi (2013) that summarizes this point:

“It (oscillatory synchrony) could allow neurons to communicate different messages to different targets depending on whom they are synchronized with (and how, e.g., phase, frequency).    For example, rat hippocampal CA1 neurons preferentially synchronize to the entorhinal or CA3 neurons at different gamma frequencies and theta phases (Colgin et al, 2009).  Different frequency synchronization between human cortical areas supports recollection of spatial vs temporal information (Watrous et al., 2013).  Different phases of cortical oscillations preferentially signal different pictures simultaneously held in short-term memory (Siegel et al., 2009).  Monkey frontal and parietal cortices synchronize more strongly at lower vs higher frequency for top-down vs bottom-up attention, respectively (Buschman and Miller, 2007).  Entraining the human frontal cortex at those frequencies produces the predicted top-down vs bottom-up effects on behavior (Chanes et al., 2013).  Thus, activity from the same neurons has different functional outcomes depending on their rhythmic dynamics.”

Miller, E.K. and Fusi, S. (2013) Limber neurons for a nimble mind. Neuron. 78:211-213. View PDF

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.