The Generation and Propagation of the Human Alpha Rhythm

Milan Halgren, István Ulbert, Hélène Bastuji, Dániel Fabó, Lorand Erőss, Marc Rey, Orrin Devinsky, Werner K. Doyle, Rachel Mak-McCully, Eric Halgren, Lucia Wittner, Patrick Chauvel, Gary Heit, Emad Eskandar, Arnold Mandell, Sydney S. Cash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The alpha rhythm is the longest studied brain oscillation and has been theorized to play a key role in cognition. Still, its physiology is poorly understood. In this study, we used micro and macro electrodes in surgical epilepsy patients to measure the intracortical and thalamic generators of the alpha rhythm during quiet wakefulness. We first found that alpha in posterior cortex propagates from higher-order anterosuperior areas towards the occipital pole, consistent with alpha effecting top-down processing. This cortical alpha leads pulvinar alpha, complicating prevailing theories of a thalamic pacemaker. Finally, alpha is dominated by currents and firing in supragranular cortical layers. Together, these results suggest that the alpharhythm likely reflects short-range supragranular feedback which propagates from higher to lower-order cortex and cortex to thalamus. These physiological insights suggest how alpha could mediate feedback throughout the thalamocortical system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Nov 18 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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