Our brain is rhythmic and interacts with the rhythms of our environment

This week at the weekly seminar of my research group we’ve read and discussed the following paper:

2019 Sep 23;29(18):R890-R905. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.075.

A New Unifying Account of the Roles of Neuronal Entrainment

Lakatos PGross JThut G.

Abstract. Rhythms are a fundamental and defining feature of neuronal activity in animals including humans. This rhythmic brain activity interacts in complex ways with rhythms in the internal and external environment through the phenomenon of ‘neuronal entrainment’, which is attracting increasing attention due to its suggested role in a multitude of sensory and cognitive processes. Some senses, such as touch and vision, sample the environment rhythmically, while others, like audition, are faced with mostly rhythmic inputs. Entrainment couples rhythmic brain activity to external and internal rhythmic events, serving fine-grained routing and modulation of external and internal signals across multiple spatial and temporal hierarchies. This interaction between a brain and its environment can be experimentally investigated and even modified by rhythmic sensory stimuli or invasive and non-invasive neuromodulation techniques. We provide a comprehensive overview of the topic and propose a theoretical framework of how neuronal entrainment dynamically structures information from incoming neuronal, bodily and environmental sources. We discuss the different types of neuronal entrainment, the conceptual advances in the field, and converging evidence for general principles.

What I enjoyed about this paper is that the authors explain in a very plain way what is neuronal entrainment and what has been done by far in the neuroscience field. They introduce the ideas from a very real-life manner and little by little they get into detail and in the neurocognitive level. I really appreciate that general overview to then focus more on the research that is out there regarding neuronal entrainment.

One of the things I kept as a take-home message from the paper is how our brain and body interacts with each other, and how rhythms (both internal and external from the environment) might have an impact on the intrinsic rhythms of our brain. That relationship would explain why when we are just focusing on breathing or we are mediating in a zafu the activity in the low-frequency of the brain (e.g., alpha rhythm) increases and goes in rhythm with the breathing. Or, why when we are in a live concert or dancing in the dancefloor our body feels the music but also our brain feels the frequency beat of the song. Isn’t that amazing? More studies like this should be done in this direction and cover this topic. Looking forward to reading more of it!

Sources

Article from Cell Press.

Feature image from Pexels.

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