Phase coding in the visual system: neuronal processing coordinated by brain oscillations


  • Prof Ole Jensen

    University of Birmingham

Project summary

We receive a wealth of visual input when driving down a busy street. Our brains are unable to process all this input but have a remarkable ability to decide what to process and what to ignore. My previous research suggests that ‘brain oscillations’ are essential for controlling the visual flow. Brain oscillations are generated by coordinated activity of thousands of neurons. The strongest oscillation measured in people when they are awake is the ‘alpha rhythm’ which is produced by neural activity pulsing at more than 10 times per second.

I propose a novel neuronal mechanism according to which different objects in a visual scene are represented sequentially along an alpha cycle. According to this framework, information between brain regions is exchanged when the regions oscillate together. This theory provides a mechanistic explanation for how brain oscillations coordinate neuronal activity to prioritise the information flow which is presently lacking. We will test the theory by measuring brain oscillations from many brain regions simultaneously using magnetoencephalography (MEG) as well as intracranial recordings. 

This research will eventually help us understand what goes wrong in people who have problems focusing in busy settings such as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.