Oscillatory patterns of activity in various frequency ranges are ubiquitously expressed in cortical circuits. While recent studies in humans emphasized rhythmic modulations of neuronal oscillations ("second-order" rhythms), their potential involvement in information coding remains an open question. Here, we show that a rhythmic (~0.7 Hz) modulation of hippocampal theta power, unraveled by second-order spectral analysis, supports encoding of spatial and behavioral information. The phase preference of neuronal discharge within this slow rhythm significantly increases the amount of information carried by action potentials in various motor/cognitive behaviors by (1) distinguishing between the spikes fired within versus outside the place field of hippocampal place cells, (2) disambiguating place firing of neurons having multiple place fields, and (3) predicting between alternative future spatial trajectories. This finding demonstrates the relevance of second-order spectral components of brain rhythms for decoding neuronal information.
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