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High-Frequency Oscillations (20 to 120 Hz) and Their Role in Visual Processing


Munk,  MHJ
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Munk, M. (2000). High-Frequency Oscillations (20 to 120 Hz) and Their Role in Visual Processing. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, 17(4), 341-360. Retrieved from

Oscillatory firing of neurons in response to visual stimuli has been observed to occur with different frequencies at multiple levels of the visual system. In the cat retina, oscillatory firing patterns occur with frequencies in the range of 60 to 120 Hz (omega-oscillations). These millisecond-precise temporal patterns are transmitted reliably to the cortex and may provide a feed-forward mechanism of response synchronization. In the cortex, visual responses often show oscillatory patterning with frequencies between 20 and 60 Hz (gamma-oscillations), which are not phase locked to the stimulus onset and therefore do not show up in regularly averaged evoked potentials. Gamma-oscillatory responses synchronize with millisecond precision over long distances and are mediated by the reciprocal corticocortical connectivity. Modulatory systems like the ascending reticular activating system facilitate synchronization and increase the strength of gamma-oscillations. During states of such functional cortical activation, the dominant frequency of the EEG is shifted from lower frequencies in the delta-/theta-range to higher frequencies in the gamma-range. Therefore, functional states indicate different degrees of temporal precision with which large neuronal populations interact. Response synchronization also depends on relations of global stimulus features. This suggests that millisecond-precise neuronal interactions serve as a fundamental mechanism for visual information processing.