Study reveals a universal pattern of brain wave frequencies

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According to an article on ScienceDaily.com, MIT neuroscientists have made a significant discovery regarding the electrical activity in the six layers of the brain’s cortex. Neurons in these layers exhibit distinct patterns of activity, with rapid oscillations known as gamma waves dominating in the top layers and slower oscillations (alpha and beta waves) prevailing in the deeper layers. This pattern is consistent across various brain regions and species, indicating a fundamental role in brain function.

The research, led by MIT’s Picower Professor of Neuroscience, Earl Miller, and senior author André Bastos from Vanderbilt University, involved analyzing data from 14 different areas of the cortex across four mammalian species. The researchers used special electrodes to simultaneously record electrical activity from all layers and developed a computational algorithm called FLIP (frequency-based layer identification procedure) to determine the origin of signals from each layer.

The findings support Miller’s model proposing that the brain’s spatial organization, with different layers exhibiting specific oscillation patterns, allows for the incorporation of new information into existing memories and processes. This layered activity pattern was observed consistently across all species and regions studied.

Importantly, imbalances in the interaction between high-frequency and low-frequency oscillations may be implicated in various brain disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The researchers suggest that disruptions in the balance between external sensory information and internal cognitive states could contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders such as ADHD or schizophrenia.

Looking ahead, the scientists are exploring the potential of measuring these oscillations for diagnosing neurological disorders and investigating whether rebalancing these patterns could be a viable treatment approach. Additionally, collaboration with other labs aims to characterize layered oscillation patterns in more detail across different brain regions, providing insights into common mechanisms underlying various cognitive functions. The research was funded by various institutions, including the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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