Researchers Discover Electric Activity In Cortex Of Human Brain Consistent With Other Species

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MIT researchers have made a groundbreaking discovery related to the brain’s cortex, the outer layer responsible for complex functions. They have identified unique patterns of electrical activity in the cortex’s six layers, which are consistent across different brain regions and various animal species, including humans.

Different electric waves observed in cortex

Scientists have recently made a groundbreaking discovery regarding the cortex’s layered structure. Under a microscope, researchers found unique patterns of electrical oscillations in these layers. Notably, the upper layers of the cortex display fast-moving gamma waves, while deeper layers exhibit slower alpha and beta waves. This consistent pattern across various species and brain regions implies a crucial role for these waves in brain function.

In a study led by Earl Miller at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, researchers examined the widespread occurrence of cortical oscillations, emphasizing their fundamental role in cortical functions. The research explored potential connections between oscillation imbalances and disorders like epilepsy and ADHD, using a novel computational algorithm (FLIP) to analyze data from diverse sources, including human patients undergoing surgery with advanced electrodes recording simultaneous activity from all cortical layers.

A comprehensive analysis of various species and cortical regions unveiled a consistent layered activity pattern in the cortex, indicating a fundamental mechanism. Lead author Diego Mendoza-Halliday from MIT highlights the widespread presence of this pattern, suggesting its fundamental nature.

Researchers suggest that the spatial organization of oscillations aids in integrating sensory information and existing memories, vital for cognitive function. Imbalances in these oscillations may contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders, suggesting potential diagnostic and therapeutic avenues.

Cortex uses oscillations and anatomy to distinguish information

The observed laminar separation of frequencies in the cortex may enable superficial layers to represent external sensory information with faster frequencies, while deep layers represent internal cognitive states with slower frequencies, according to Vanderbilt University’s André Bastos. The cortex is said to employ multiple mechanisms, combining anatomy and oscillations, to distinguish between ‘external’ and ‘internal’ information.

Ongoing research aims to identify common activity patterns across brain regions, potentially revealing universal computation mechanisms for various functions like motor outputs, vision, memory, and attention.

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