Oscillatory Modulation of Neural Communication

Tuesday 2 July 2024, 4:30 pm
PhD candidate
MSc. M.J. ter Wal
prof. dr. P.H.E. Tiesinga

Oscillations are a prominent element of signals recorded from neural tissue, but whether they play a causal or functional role in neural processing remains unclear. In this thesis we study how oscillations affect the sensitivity of neural tissue to new information and the ability of neural circuits to communicate.

Using computer models we identify how oscillations can arise in different types of neural circuits. We next ask how these oscillations influence individual brain cells. We find that cells respond more strongly to oscillatory inputs, because activity in different parts of the cells interacts with each other. Something similar is shown for neural circuits: circuits communicate more or less, depending on the interactions between their oscillations and as a result, can modulate information transfer between brain regions.

Can we use oscillations to study communication within human brains? Here we use recordings from the brains of epilepsy patients, who have electrodes implanted as part of their clinical treatment. We develop an improved method to identify direct functional connections and separate them from noise. We also show that we can identify the processes that lead up to a decision by the patient. This way we can follow the decision making process from one brain region to another.

Marije Joanne ter Wal graduated cum laude from the Montessori College in Nijmegen in 2006. She went on to study at Utrecht University, where she obtained a cum laude Bachelor of Science in Biology in 2010 and a cum laude Bachelor of Science in Physics and Astronomy in 2011. She continued her studies at Radboud University in Nijmegen with a Master of Science programme in Natural Sciences, specialising in Biophysics. She completed this programme cum laude in 2013 with a thesis entitled: ‘Modelling communication in the brain: synchrony and phase in cortical circuits and their effect on information transfer’ at Radboud University under the supervision of Professor Paul Tiesinga, and a thesis entitled ‘Fitting Integrate-and-Fire models to neurons in entorhinal cortex’ at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, under the supervision of Professor Mark van Rossum.