Neural gain control measured through cortical gamma oscillations is associated with sensory sensitivity

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Apr 1;40(5):1583-1593. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24469. Epub 2018 Dec 13.


Gamma oscillations facilitate information processing by shaping the excitatory input/output of neuronal populations. Recent studies in humans and nonhuman primates have shown that strong excitatory drive to the visual cortex leads to suppression of induced gamma oscillations, which may reflect inhibitory-based gain control of network excitation. The efficiency of the gain control measured through gamma oscillations may in turn affect sensory sensitivity in everyday life. To test this prediction, we assessed the link between self-reported sensitivity and changes in magneto-encephalographic gamma oscillations as a function of motion velocity of high-contrast visual gratings. The induced gamma oscillations increased in frequency and decreased in power with increasing stimulation intensity. As expected, weaker suppression of the gamma response correlated with sensory hypersensitivity. Robustness of this result was confirmed by its replication in the two samples: neurotypical subjects and people with autism, who had generally elevated sensory sensitivity. We conclude that intensity-related suppression of gamma response is a promising biomarker of homeostatic control of the excitation-inhibition balance in the visual cortex.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorders; gamma oscillations; magneto-encephalography; response gain control; sensory sensitivity; visual motion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnostic imaging
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Gamma Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Perception
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology
  • Visual Perception
  • Young Adult