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Neuronal Oscillations: A window on the workings of the human brain

by Avgis Hadjipapas, Professor for Neuroscience and Research Methods,  University of Nicosia Medical School

The human brain is a complex network consisting of about a hundred billion units (neurons) interconnected in an intricate pattern by a quadrillion connections. In addition, the marked interactivity between network units means that no individual unit can be viewed in isolation. The sheer scale and complexity of this system is humbling. How is it possible to study such a system?

Perhaps a good place to start is activity, which is common across many network units, a prime example of which are network (brain) oscillations. In this presentation I will propose that oscillations provide a unique perspective on how neurons work together and how these self-organize, giving rise to emergent, collective network (brain) states. Importantly, once formed, these collective states may in turn have important functional implications. These are currently the object of an active scientific debate and include constraints posed on 1) individual unit activity 2) synchronization behaviour within the same and between different brain areas and 3) global states governing perception, cognition and manifestation of seizures. Examples from my work in the visual system and epilepsy will be presented.

Finally, I will propose that the study of oscillations can help bridge the gap between invasive neurophysiology in the animal, and noninvasive neuroimaging/clinical neurophysiology in humans, and also bridge observations across different spatial scales. Thus, the study of oscillations yields a unique window on the workings of networks in the human brain.

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