Research that identified the source of generating gamma brain waves

This 2015 Harvard rodent study found that specific brain neurons trigger cortical band oscillations in the gamma wave length. The cell type:

“Has increased activity during waking and is involved in activating the cerebral cortex and generating gamma oscillations, enabling active cortical processing.

Cortical gamma band oscillations are correlated with conscious awareness.”


1. News coverage of the study misreported the research’s consciousness findings by regurgitating the Harvard press release word-for-word. Several speculations thrown in by the PR staff weren’t supported by the findings regarding:

  • “Awareness of consciousness;
  • Aware of the lower levels of consciousness and their contents.”

2. The researchers used optogenetic stimulation of neurons, similar to the Activation of brainstem neurons induces REM sleep study. The current study took the extra step of lesioning cholinergic neurons to ensure the activity studied was due to the target neurons.

3. The neurons generated gamma waves by simultaneously turning off all receptor neurons, then simultaneously switching them all back on. The researchers said:

“Our results are surprising and novel in indicating that this presumptively inhibitory”

neuron type acted this way.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/11/3535.full “Cortically projecting basal forebrain parvalbumin neurons regulate cortical gamma band oscillations”

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