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Directed communication between nucleus accumbens and neocortex in humans is differentially supported by synchronization in the theta and alpha band

Horschig, J. M., Smolders, R., Bonnefond, M., Schoffelen, J.-M., Van den Munckhof, P., Schuurman, P. R., Cools, R., Denys, D., & Jensen, O. (2015). Directed communication between nucleus accumbens and neocortex in humans is differentially supported by synchronization in the theta and alpha band. PLoS One, 10(9): e0138685. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138685.
Here, we report evidence for oscillatory bi-directional interactions between the nucleus accumbens and the neocortex in humans. Six patients performed a demanding covert visual attention task while we simultaneously recorded brain activity from deep-brain electrodes implanted in the nucleus accumbens and the surface electroencephalogram (EEG). Both theta and alpha oscillations were strongly coherent with the frontal and parietal EEG during the task. Theta-band coherence increased during processing of the visual stimuli. Granger causality analysis revealed that the nucleus accumbens was communicating with the neocortex primarily in the theta-band, while the cortex was communicating the nucleus accumbens in the alpha-band. These data are consistent with a model, in which theta- and alpha-band oscillations serve dissociable roles: Prior to stimulus processing, the cortex might suppress ongoing processing in the nucleus accumbens by modulating alpha-band activity. Subsequently, upon stimulus presentation, theta oscillations might facilitate the active exchange of stimulus information from the nucleus accumbens to the cortex.
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