The oscillations of Rudolfo Llin√°s

The New York Times has an excellent profile of free-thinking neuroscientist Rudolfo Llin√°s who is renowned for his theories on the importance of brain oscillations and his unique take on consciousness.

Now based in New York, Llin√°s is a native of Colombia and is considered one of the most important living neuroscientists.

He views the brain as a neurophysiologist but applies his knowledge of neurobiology to understanding some of the bigger questions, such as conscious experience and mental illness.

When the brain is awake, neurons in the cortex and thalamus oscillate at the same high frequency, called gamma. “It’s like a Riverdance performance,” Dr. Llinás continued. “Some cells are tapping in harmony and some are silent, creating myriads of patterns that represent the properties of the external world. Cells with the same rhythm form circuits to bind information in time. Such coherent activity allows you to see and hear, to be alert and able to think.”

But at day’s end, cells in the thalamus naturally enter a low-frequency oscillation. They burst slowly instead of firing rapidly. With the thalamus thrumming at a slower rhythm, the cortex follows along. You fall asleep. Your brain is still tapping out slow rhythms, but consciousness is suspended.

So if a small part of the thalamus gets permanently stuck at a low frequency, or part of the cortex fails to respond to the wake-up call, Dr. Llin√°s said, an abnormal rhythm is generated, a so-called thalamocortical dysrhythmia.

And Llin√°s claims that specific dysrhythmias can be seen in various brain problems each of which might represent a specific breakdown in the normal oscillations of the brain.

Link to NYT ‘In a Host of Ailments, Seeing a Brain Out of Rhythm’.

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