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Tracking transient changes in the intrinsic neural frequency architecture: Oxytocin facilitates non-harmonic relationships between alpha and theta rhythms in the resting brain

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Shifts in the peak frequencies of oscillatory neural rhythms have been put forward as a principal mechanism by which cross-frequency coupling and decoupling is implemented in the brain. This notion is based on the mathematical reality that neural oscillations can only fully synchronize when their peak frequencies form harmonic 2:1 relationships (e.g., f2=f1/2). Non-harmonic cross-frequency relationships, on the other hand (based on the irrational golden mean 1.618.:1), provide the highest physiologically possible desynchronized state (reducing the occurrence of spurious, noisy, background coupling), and are therefore anticipated to characterize the resting state of the brain, in which no selective information processing takes place. The present study sought to assess whether the transient occurrence of 1.6:1 non-harmonic and 2:1 harmonic relationships between peak frequencies in the alpha (8-14 Hz) and theta (4-8 Hz) bands - respectively facilitating states of decoupling or coupling between oscillatory rhythms - are impacted by the intranasal administration of a single-dose of oxytocin (OT) or placebo. To do so, continuous resting-state electroencephalography (5 min eyes open, 19 electrodes) was obtained from 96 healthy adult men before and after nasal spray administration. The transient formation of non-harmonic cross-frequency configurations between alpha and theta peak frequencies was significantly increased after OT nasal spray administration, indicating an effect of OT on reducing the intrinsic occurrence of spurious (noisy) background phase synchronizations during resting-state. As a group, the OT group also showed a significant parallel increase in high-frequency and decrease in low-frequency heart rate variability, confirming a homeostatic role of OT in balancing parasympathetic drive. Overall, non-harmonic cross-frequency configurations have been put forward to lay the ground for a healthy neural network allowing the opportunity for an efficient transition from resting state to activity. The observed effects of OT on cross-frequency dynamics are therefore interpreted to reflect a homeostatic role of OT in increasing the signal-to-noise properties of the intrinsic EEG neural frequency architecture, i.e., by precluding the occurrence of 'noisy', unwanted, spurious couplings among neural rhythms in the resting brain.
Journal: Psychoneuroendocrinology
ISSN: 0306-4530
Volume: 133
Number of pages: 11
Publication year:2021
Keywords:Endocrinology & metabolism, Psychiatry & neurology, Neurosciences & psychopharmacology