Brain waves guide us in spotlighting surprises

By measuring thousands of neurons along the surface, or cortex, of the brain in animals as they reacted to predictable and surprising images, the researchers observed that low frequency alpha and beta brain waves, or rhythms, originating in the brain’s frontal cognitive regions tamped down neural activity associated with predictable stimuli. That paved the way for neurons in sensory regions in the back of the brain to push forward information associated with unexpected stimuli via higher-frequency gamma waves. The backflow of alpha/beta carrying inhibitory predictions typically channeled through deeper layers of the cortex, while the forward flow of excitatory gamma carrying novel stimuli propagated across superficial layers.