Brain Networks and α-Oscillations: Structural and Functional Foundations of Cognitive Control

Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 Nov;20(11):805-817. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.09.004. Epub 2016 Oct 1.


The most salient electrical signal measured from the human brain is the α-rhythm, neural activity oscillating at ∼100ms intervals. Recent findings challenge the longstanding dogma of α-band oscillations as the signature of a passively idling brain state but diverge in terms of interpretation. Despite firm correlations with behavior, the mechanistic role of the α-rhythm in brain function remains debated. We suggest that three large-scale brain networks involved in different facets of top-down cognitive control differentially modulate α-oscillations, ranging from power within and synchrony between brain regions. Thereby, these networks selectively influence local signal processing, widespread information exchange, and ultimately perception and behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology*