Background: The mammalian brain expresses a wide range of state-dependent network oscillations which vary in frequency and spatial extension. Such rhythms can entrain multiple neurons into coherent patterns of activity, consistent with a role in behaviour, cognition and memory formation. Recent evidence suggests that locally generated fast network oscillations can be systematically aligned to long-range slow oscillations. It is likely that such cross-frequency coupling supports specific tasks including behavioural choice and working memory.
Principal findings: We analyzed temporal coupling between high-frequency oscillations and EEG theta activity (4-12 Hz) in recordings from mouse parietal neocortex. Theta was exclusively present during active wakefulness and REM-sleep. Fast oscillations occurred in two separate frequency bands: gamma (40-100 Hz) and fast gamma (120-160 Hz). Theta, gamma and fast gamma were more prominent during active wakefulness as compared to REM-sleep. Coupling between theta and the two types of fast oscillations, however, was more pronounced during REM-sleep. This state-dependent cross-frequency coupling was particularly strong for theta-fast gamma interaction which increased 9-fold during REM as compared to active wakefulness. Theta-gamma coupling increased only by 1.5-fold.
Significance: State-dependent cross-frequency-coupling provides a new functional characteristic of REM-sleep and establishes a unique property of neocortical fast gamma oscillations. Interactions between defined patterns of slow and fast network oscillations may serve selective functions in sleep-dependent information processing.