Theta-nested gamma oscillations have been reported in many areas of the brain and are believed to represent a fundamental mechanism to transfer information across spatial and temporal scales. In a series of recent experiments in vitro it has been possible to replicate with an optogenetic theta frequency stimulation several features of cross-frequency coupling (CFC) among theta and gamma rhythms observed in behaving animals. In order to reproduce the main findings of these experiments we have considered a new class of neural mass models able to reproduce exactly the macroscopic dynamics of spiking neural networks. In this framework, we have examined two set-ups able to support collective gamma oscillations: namely, the pyramidal interneuronal network gamma (PING) and the interneuronal network gamma (ING). In both set-ups we observe the emergence of theta-nested gamma oscillations by driving the system with a sinusoidal theta-forcing in proximity of a Hopf bifurcation. These mixed rhythms always display phase amplitude coupling. However, two different types of nested oscillations can be identified: one characterized by a perfect phase locking between theta and gamma rhythms, corresponding to an overall periodic behavior; another one where the locking is imperfect and the dynamics is quasi-periodic or even chaotic. From our analysis it emerges that the locked states are more frequent in the ING set-up. In agreement with the experiments, we find theta-nested gamma oscillations for forcing frequencies in the range [1:10] Hz, whose amplitudes grow proportionally to the forcing intensity and which are clearly modulated by the theta phase. Furthermore, analogously to the experiments, the gamma power and the frequency of the gamma-power peak increase with the forcing amplitude. At variance with experimental findings, the gamma-power peak does not shift to higher frequencies by increasing the theta frequency. This effect can be obtained, in our model, only by incrementing, at the same time, also the stimulation power. An effect achieved by increasing the amplitude either of the noise or of the forcing term proportionally to the theta frequency. On the basis of our analysis both the PING and the ING mechanism give rise to theta-nested gamma oscillations with almost identical features.
Keywords: cross-frequency coupling; hippocampus; neural mass models; neural oscillations; phase-amplitude coupling; quadratic integrate-and-fire neuron.
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