Beta oscillations underlie top-down, feedback control while gamma oscillations reflect bottom-up, feedforward influences
MetadataShow full item record
Prefrontal cortex (PFC) is critical to behavioral flexibility and, hence, the top-down control over bottom-up sensory information. The mechanisms underlying this capacity have been hypothesized to involve the propagation of alpha/beta (8-30 Hz) oscillations via feedback connections to sensory regions. In contrast, gamma (30-160 Hz) oscillations are thought to arise as a function of bottom-up, feedforward stimulation. To test the hypothesis that such oscillatory phenomena embody such functional roles, we assessed the performance of nine monkeys on tasks of learning, categorization, and working memory concurrent with recording of local field potentials (LFPs) from PFC. The first set of tasks consisted of two classes of learning: one, explicit and, another, implicit. Explicit learning is a conscious process that demands top-down control, and in these tasks alpha/beta oscillations tracked learning. In contrast, implicit learning is an unconscious process that is automatic (i.e. bottom up), and in this task alpha/beta oscillations did not track learning. We next looked at dot-pattern categorization. In this task, category exemplars were generated by jittering the dot locations of a prototype. By chance, some of these exemplars were similar to the prototype (low distortion), and others were not (high distortion). Behaviorally, the monkeys performed well on both distortion levels. However, alpha/beta band oscillations carried more category information at high distortions, while gamma-band category information was greatest on low distortions. Overall, the greater the need for top-down control (i.e. high distortion), the greater the beta, and the lesser the need (i.e. low distortion), the greater the gamma. Finally, laminar electrodes were used to record from animals trained on working memory tasks. Each laminar probe was lowered so that its set of contacts sampled all cortical layers. During these tasks, gamma oscillations peaked in superficial layers, while alpha/beta peaked in deep layers. Moreover, these deep-layer alpha/beta oscillations entrained superficial alpha/beta, and modulated the amplitude of superficial-layer gamma oscillations. These laminar distinctions are consistent with anatomy: feedback neurons originate in deep layers and feedforward neurons in superficial layers. In summary, alpha/beta oscillations reflect top-down control and feedback connectivity, while gamma oscillations reflect bottom-up processes and feedforward connectivity.