Neural mechanisms underlying brain waves: from neural membranes to networks

Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1991 Aug;79(2):81-93. doi: 10.1016/0013-4694(91)90044-5.


In this review, a number of experimental findings and theoretical concepts that have led to new insights into the mechanisms underlying brain waves are presented. At the cellular level, the new evidence that certain types of neuron have intrinsic oscillatory properties that may underlie rhythmic EEG activities is discussed. In particular, the question of whether spindle oscillations are autonomous or input-dependent is addressed. At the neural network level, the main circuits of the thalamus and cortex that are responsible for the occurrence and modulation of spindles and alpha activity are described. In addition, the properties of rhythmic activities outside the alpha band are considered, particularly in relation to the prominent beta activity of the visual cortex. At the theoretical level, the possibility that neural networks may behave as complex dynamic systems with the properties of deterministic chaos is discussed. Finally, the fact that brain rhythms may have functional implications for the working of neural networks is examined in relation to 2 cases: the possibility that oscillations may subserve a gating function, and that oscillations may play a role in the formation of assemblies of neurons that represent given stimulus patterns.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Membranes
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Periodicity
  • Thalamus / physiology