State-dependent alpha peak frequency shifts: Experimental evidence, potential mechanisms and functional implications

Neuroscience. 2017 Sep 30:360:146-154. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.07.037. Epub 2017 Jul 22.


Neural populations produce complex oscillatory patterns thought to implement brain function. The dominant rhythm in the healthy adult human brain is formed by alpha oscillations with a typical power peak most commonly found between 8 and 12Hz. This alpha peak frequency has been repeatedly discussed as a highly heritable and stable neurophysiological "trait" marker reflecting anatomical properties of the brain, and individuals' general cognitive capacity. However, growing evidence suggests that the alpha peak frequency is highly volatile at shorter time scales, dependent on the individuals' "state". Based on the converging experimental and theoretical results from numerous recent studies, here we propose that alpha frequency variability forms the basis of an adaptive mechanism mirroring the activation level of neural populations which has important functional implications. We here integrate experimental and computational perspectives to shed new light on the potential role played by shifts in alpha peak frequency and discuss resulting implications. We further propose a potential mechanism by which alpha oscillations are regulated in a noisy network of spiking neurons in presence of delayed feedback.

Keywords: activation state; alpha peak frequency; frequency tuning; information gating; network oscillations; neural computation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*