Progress in Neurobiology

Gamma-frequency oscillations: A neuronal population phenomenon, regulated by synaptic and intrinsic cellular processes, and inducing synaptic plasticity

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Neurons are extraordinarily complicated devices, in which physical and chemical processes are intercoupled, in spatially non-uniform manner, over distances of millimetres or more, and over time scales of < 1 msec up to the lifetime of the animal. The fact that neuronal populations generating most brain activities of interest are very large - perhaps many millions of cells - makes the task of analysis seem hopeless. Yet, during at least some population activities, neuronal networks oscillate synchronously. The emergence of such oscillations generates precise temporal relationships between neuronal inputs and outputs, thus rendering tractable the analysis of network function at a cellular level. We illustrate this idea with a review of recent data and a network model of synchronized gamma frequency (> 20 Hz) oscillations in vitro and discuss how these and other oscillations may relate to recent data on back-propagating, action potentials, dendritic Ca2+ transients, long-term potentiation and GABA(A) receptor-mediated synaptic potentials.