Brain rhythms are more than just passive phenomena in visual cortex. For the first time, we show that the physiology underlying brain rhythms actively suppresses and releases cortical areas on a second-to-second basis during visual processing. Furthermore, their influence is specific at the scale of individual gyri. We quantified the interaction between broadband spectral change and brain rhythms on a second-to-second basis in electrocorticographic (ECoG) measurement of brain surface potentials in five human subjects during a visual search task. Comparison of visual search epochs with a blank screen baseline revealed changes in the raw potential, the amplitude of rhythmic activity, and in the decoupled broadband spectral amplitude. We present new methods to characterize the intensity and preferred phase of coupling between broadband power and band-limited rhythms, and to estimate the magnitude of rhythm-to-broadband modulation on a trial-by-trial basis. These tools revealed numerous coupling motifs between the phase of low-frequency (δ, θ, α, β, and γ band) rhythms and the amplitude of broadband spectral change. In the θ and β ranges, the coupling of phase to broadband change is dynamic during visual processing, decreasing in some occipital areas and increasing in others, in a gyrally specific pattern. Finally, we demonstrate that the rhythms interact with one another across frequency ranges, and across cortical sites.
Keywords: beta; broadband; electrocorticography; nested oscillation; occipital cortex; phase–amplitude coupling; rhythm; vision.