EEG alpha oscillations: the inhibition-timing hypothesis

Brain Research Reviews
Wolfgang KlimeschSimon Hanslmayr

Abstract

The traditional belief is that the event-related alpha response can solely be described in terms of suppression or event-related desynchronization (ERD). Recent research, however, has shown that under certain conditions alpha responds reliably with an increase in amplitudes (event-related synchronization or ERS). ERS is elicited in situations, where subjects withhold or control the execution of a response and is obtained over sites that probably are under, or exert top-down control. Thus, we assume that alpha ERS reflects top-down, inhibitory control processes. This assumption leads over to the timing aspect of our hypothesis. By the very nature of an oscillation, rhythmic amplitude changes reflect rhythmic changes in excitation of a population of neurons. Thus, the time and direction of a change - described by phase - is functionally related to the timing of neuronal activation processes. A variety of findings supports this view and shows, e.g., that alpha phase coherence increases between task-relevant sites and that phase lag lies within a time range that is consistent with neuronal transmission speed. Another implication is that phase reset will be a powerful mechanism for the event-related timing of cortical processes. Emp...Continue Reading

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