Coherence of gamma-band EEG activity as a basis for associative learning

Nature. 1999 Feb 4;397(6718):434-6. doi: 10.1038/17126.


Different regions of the brain must communicate with each other to provide the basis for the integration of sensory information, sensory-motor coordination and many other functions that are critical for learning, memory, information processing, perception and the behaviour of organisms. Hebb suggested that this is accomplished by the formation of assemblies of cells whose synaptic linkages are strengthened whenever the cells are activated or 'ignited' synchronously. Hebb's seminal concept has intrigued investigators since its formulation, but the technology to demonstrate its existence had been lacking until the past decade. Previous studies have shown that very fast electroencephalographic activity in the gamma band (20-70 Hz) increases during, and may be involved in, the formation of percepts and memory, linguistic processing, and other behavioural and perceptual functions. We show here that increased gamma-band activity is also involved in associative learning. In addition, we find that another measure, gamma-band coherence, increases between regions of the brain that receive the two classes of stimuli involved in an associative-learning procedure in humans. An increase in coherence could fulfil the criteria required for the formation of hebbian cell assemblies, binding together parts of the brain that must communicate with one another in order for associative learning to take place. In this way, coherence may be a signature for this and other types of learning.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrodes
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male