Reflections on Brain Oscillations

A recent episode of the Brain Science Podcast was an interview with György Buzsáki author of Rhythms of the Brain.  The significance of brain oscillations is a complex and somewhat controversial subject, so it is not surprising that the episode had generated mixed reviews.  It is quite challenging to present an area of this sort, and I thought Dr. György Buzsáki did a good job of putting his work into layman's language.

I chose Rhythms of the Brain because several listeners requested it.  One of those was Diane Jacobs, who is an energetic contributor to the Brain Science Podcast Discussion Forum.  In a recent blog post Jacobs explains why this subject has captured her interest.

Jacobs is currently working on a transcript of the episode (31), which I will post when it is available.  I want to publicly thank her for her efforts.  You can read her blog post at

Brain Science Podcast #31: Brain Rhythms with György Buzsáki


György Buzsáki, author of Rhythms of the Brain  (OUP 2006), is a professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University.  His book is a comprehensive review of the current state of research in the field of brain oscillations.  It includes the role of these oscillations in sleep and memory.  In Episode 31 of the Brain Science PodcastDr. Buzáki explains why the rhythms of the brain are important and reflects on why this field has been neglected by some neuroscientists.  I think he makes a convincing case for the position that these rhythms are an essential component of brain function.

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Scientists and References:

  • Stephen Strogatz: known for his discovery of "small world" architecture.: His 2003 bestseller Sync: The emerging science of spontaneous order is aimed at a general audience
  • Nancy Kopell: mathematician: Buzsaki recommends her review of the analytical approaches to neuronal oscillators: We got Rhythm: Dynamical Systems of the Nervous System. N Am Math Soc 47: 6-16 (2000).
    • Zoltán Néda (Bebes-Bolyai University Romania): the spontaneous synchronization of hand clapping
      • Hermann Haken: German laser physicist who studies bidirectional causation.
      • David McCormick (Yale University): showed that neurons from the thalamus of a ferret can oscillate spontaneously.  He has also studied the oscillations of place cells in the hippocampus.
        • David Hubel and Thorston Wiesel: along with Vernon Montcastle, they pioneered the use of single neuron recordings in the neocortex of casts and monkeys.
        • Montcastle, VB (1997), "The Columnar Organization of the Neocortex." Brain 102:01-722.
          • Claude Shannon: founder of Information Theory.
          • Jan Born (University of Lübeck, Germany): experiments with how sleep improves both memory and problem solving.

          Topics and questions:

          • Basics of oscillations and synchrony.
          • What functions are accomplished by brain rhythms?
          • The role of hippocampal ripples in memory.
          • What happens to our brain rhythms while we sleep.
          • The importance of synchrony in saving energy in the brain.

          This episode will appeal to listeners with a background in math or engineering, but Dr. Buzsáki provides numerous everyday examples that make the material accessible to everyone.