Fronto-subthalamic phase synchronization and cross-frequency coupling during conflict processing

Neuroimage. 2021 Sep:238:118205. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118205. Epub 2021 May 30.


Growing evidence suggests that both the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the subthalamic nucleus (STN) play crucial roles in conflict processing, but how these two structures coordinate their activities remains poorly understood. We simultaneously recorded electroencephalogram from the mPFC and local field potentials from the STN using deep brain stimulation electrodes in 13 Parkinson's disease patients while they performed a Stroop task. Both mPFC and STN showed significant increases in theta activities (2-8 Hz) in incongruent trials compared to the congruent trials. The theta activity in incongruent trials also demonstrated significantly increased phase synchronization between mPFC and STN. Furthermore, the amplitude of gamma oscillation was modulated by the phase of theta activity at the STN in incongruent trials. Such theta-gamma phase-amplitude coupling (PAC) was much stronger for incongruent trials with faster reaction times than those with slower reaction times. Elevated theta-gamma PAC in the STN provides a novel mechanism by which the STN may operationalize its proposed "hold-your-horses" role. The co-occurrence of mPFC-STN theta phase synchronization and STN theta-gamma PAC reflects a neural substrate for fronto-subthalamic communication during conflict processing. More broadly, it may be a general mechanism for neuronal interactions in the cortico-basal ganglia circuits via a combination of long-range, within-frequency phase synchronization and local cross-frequency PAC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Gamma Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Stroop Test
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiopathology*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*