TERM DATABASE

Oscillations

Last update: September 10, 2022
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By BrainMatters

The brain consists of many different brain areas. These often have somewhat of their own task. One way of examining the brain is therefore to look, for example by means of fMRI, looking at which areas are involved in which tasks, cognitive processes, or behavior. But these brain areas are not completely separate; they also need to communicate with each other! Communication within and between brain areas often happens through the well-known brain waves. These are also called oscillations (difficult word for waves).

Just as Morse code can be used for communication because information is encoded in the time differences between successive beeps, brain cells can also relay information through what we call a "temporal code. That, in turn, is a difficult word for passing on signals in certain rhythms or at certain times.

It turns out that the brain frequently uses oscillations in that temporal code. So brain areas communicate by oscillating activity, with a certain frequency (how fast do the waves of activity go up and down) and a certain phase (at what point of the wave are we at any given time). How different areas coordinate their brain waves seems to be an important facet of communication within the brain and is therefore a very active area of research right now!

Author: Tom de Graaf (translated by Melanie Smekal)

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