Synchronization properties and functional implications of parietal beta1 rhythm
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Neural oscillations, including rhythms in the beta1 band (12-20 Hz), are important in various cognitive functions. Often brain networks receive rhythmic input at frequencies different than their natural frequency, so understanding how neural networks process rhythmic input is important for understanding their function in the brain. In the current thesis we study a beta1 rhythm that appears in the parietal cortex, focusing on the way it interacts with other incoming rhythms, and the implications of this interaction for cognition. The main part of the thesis consists of two stand-alone chapters, both using as a basis a biophysical neural network model that has been previously proposed to model the parietal beta1 rhythm and validated with in vitro experiments. In the first chapter we use a reduced version of this model, in order to study its dynamics, applying both analytic and numerical methods from dynamical systems. We show that a cell can respond at the same time to two periodic stimuli of unrelated frequencies, firing in phase with one, but with a mean firing rate equal to the other, a consequence of general properties of the dynamics of the network. We next show numerically that the behavior of a different cell, which is modeled as a high-dimensional dynamical system, can be described in a surprisingly simple way, owing to a reset that occurs in the state space when the cell fires. The interaction of the two cells leads to novel combinations of properties for neural dynamics, such as mode-locking to an input without phase-locking to it. In the second chapter, we study the ability of the beta1 model to support memory functions, in particular working memory. Working memory is a highly distributed component of the brain's memory systems, partially based in the parietal cortex. We show numerically that the parietal beta1 rhythm can provide an anatomical substrate for an episodic buffer of working memory. Specifically, it can support flexible and updatable representations of sensory input which are sensitive to distractors, allow for a read-out mechanism, and can be modulated or terminated by executive input.
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