A Role of Phase-Resetting in Coordinating Large Scale Neural Networks During Attention and Goal-Directed Behavior

Front Syst Neurosci. 2016 Mar 8;10:18. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2016.00018. eCollection 2016.


Short periods of oscillatory activation are ubiquitous signatures of neural circuits. A broad range of studies documents not only their circuit origins, but also a fundamental role for oscillatory activity in coordinating information transfer during goal directed behavior. Recent studies suggest that resetting the phase of ongoing oscillatory activity to endogenous or exogenous cues facilitates coordinated information transfer within circuits and between distributed brain areas. Here, we review evidence that pinpoints phase resetting as a critical marker of dynamic state changes of functional networks. Phase resets: (1) set a "neural context" in terms of narrow band frequencies that uniquely characterizes the activated circuits; (2) impose coherent low frequency phases to which high frequency activations can synchronize, identifiable as cross-frequency correlations across large anatomical distances; (3) are critical for neural coding models that depend on phase, increasing the informational content of neural representations; and (4) likely originate from the dynamics of canonical E-I circuits that are anatomically ubiquitous. These multiple signatures of phase resets are directly linked to enhanced information transfer and behavioral success. We survey how phase resets re-organize oscillations in diverse task contexts, including sensory perception, attentional stimulus selection, cross-modal integration, Pavlovian conditioning, and spatial navigation. The evidence we consider suggests that phase-resets can drive changes in neural excitability, ensemble organization, functional networks, and ultimately, overt behavior.

Keywords: alpha; coding; cross frequency coupling; gamma; inter-areal coordination; oscillations; phase reset; theta.

Publication types

  • Review