Gamma-band synchronization coordinates brief periods of excitability in oscillating neuronal populations to optimize information transmission during sensation and cognition. Commonly, a stable, shared frequency over time is considered a condition for functional neural synchronization. Here, we demonstrate the opposite: instantaneous frequency modulations are critical to regulate phase relations and synchronization. In monkey visual area V1, nearby local populations driven by different visual stimulation showed different gamma frequencies. When similar enough, these frequencies continually attracted and repulsed each other, which enabled preferred phase relations to be maintained in periods of minimized frequency difference. Crucially, the precise dynamics of frequencies and phases across a wide range of stimulus conditions was predicted from a physics theory that describes how weakly coupled oscillators influence each other's phase relations. Hence, the fundamental mathematical principle of synchronization through instantaneous frequency modulations applies to gamma in V1 and is likely generalizable to other brain regions and rhythms.
Keywords: gamma rhythm; neuroscience; rhesus macaque; synchronization; visual cortex; weakly coupled oscillators.