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Understanding and Modifying Temporal Dynamics of Coordinated Neural Activity


Bettina Buhring, Ph.D.
Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science


The proximal goal of this concept is to test whether modifying specific temporal patterns of coordinated neural activity in vivo can improve cognitive, social, or affective processes. Examples of rhythmic, coordinated neural activity include oscillatory local field potentials (LFP), co-modulation across frequency bands, and precise timing of action potentials during specific LFP phases.

This concept is intended to encourage a rational understanding of the role of specific neural activity rhythms in, for example, the routing of information among brain regions or improving the ability of afferent information to affect local processing by synchronizing the underlying oscillatory neural activity. The ultimate goal of this concept is to lay the groundwork for novel, rhythms-based interventions to ameliorate cognitive, social, or affective symptoms, akin to having a brain pacemaker.


Intriguing evidence is emerging that brain activity rhythms are an important aspect of neural processing, since cognitive and social processes take place over the course of seconds, if not milliseconds. However, current pharmacological interventions usually operate on the timeframe of hours, if not weeks, and they were not developed with the brain’s millisecond precision in mind. This concept would test the idea that normalizing neural activity coordination by modifying specific rhythms can improve cognitive, social, or affective processing.

While there has been a significant increase in publications in this area in the past five years, most of the work remains correlational. Thus, the goal of this concept is to raise the bar by requiring (1) causal manipulation of neural coordination that is (2) hypothesized to improve cognitive, social, or affective processes. These requirements are a unique aspect of this concept and should maximize its translational potential.