Scientific Understanding of Consciousness
Gamma Rhythms and Spike-Related Transients
PLoS Biology, April 12, 2011
Ray S, Maunsell JHR (2011) Different Origins of Gamma Rhythm and High-Gamma Activity in Macaque Visual Cortex. PLoS Biol 9(4): e1000610. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000610
Different Origins of Gamma Rhythm and High-Gamma Activity in Macaque Visual Cortex
Supratim Ray, John H. R. Maunsell
Department of Neurobiology & Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
During cognitive tasks electrical activity in the brain shows changes in power in specific frequency ranges, such as the alpha (8–12 Hz) or gamma (30–80 Hz) bands, as well as in a broad range above ~80 Hz, called the high-gamma band. The role or significance of this broadband high-gamma activity is unclear. One hypothesis states that high-gamma oscillations serve just like gamma oscillations, operating at a higher frequency and consequently at a faster timescale. Another hypothesis states that high-gamma power is related to spiking activity. Because gamma power and spiking activity tend to co-vary during most stimulus manipulations (such as contrast modulations) or cognitive tasks (such as attentional modulation), it is difficult to dissociate these two hypotheses. We studied the relationship between high-gamma power, gamma rhythm, and spiking activity in the primary visual cortex (V1) of awake monkeys while varying the stimulus size, which increased the gamma power but decreased the firing rate, permitting a dissociation. We found that gamma power became anti-correlated with the high-gamma power, suggesting that the two phenomena are distinct and have different origins. On the other hand, high-gamma power remained tightly correlated with spiking activity under a wide range of stimulus manipulations. We studied this relationship using a signal processing technique called Matching Pursuit and found that action potentials are associated with sharp transients in the LFP with broadband power, which is visible at frequencies as low as ~50 Hz. These results distinguish broadband high-gamma activity from gamma rhythms as an easily obtained and reliable electrophysiological index of neuronal firing near the microelectrode. Further, they highlight the importance of making a careful dissociation between gamma rhythms and spike-related transients that could be incorrectly decomposed as rhythms using traditional signal processing methods.
Electrical activity in the brain often shows oscillations at distinct frequencies, such as the alpha (8–12 Hz) or gamma (30–80 Hz) bands, which have been linked with distinct cognitive states. In addition, changes in power are seen in a broad range above ~80 Hz, called the “high-gamma” band. High-gamma power could arise either from sustained oscillations (similar to gamma rhythms but operating at higher frequencies) or from brief bursts of power associated with spikes generated near the electrode (“spike bleed-through”). It is difficult to dissociate these two hypotheses because gamma oscillations and spiking are correlated during most stimulus or cognitive manipulations. Further, most signal processing techniques decompose any signal into a set of oscillatory functions, making it difficult to represent any transient power fluctuations that occur at the time of spikes. We address the first issue by using a stimulus manipulation for which gamma oscillations and spiking activity are anti-correlated, permitting dissociation. To address the second issue, we use a signal processing technique called Matching Pursuit, which is well suited to capture transient activity. We show that gamma and high-gamma power become anti-correlated, suggesting different biophysical origins. Spikes and high-gamma power, however, remain tightly correlated. Broadband high-gamma activity could therefore be an easily obtained and reliable electrophysiological index of neuronal firing in the vicinity of an electrode.
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