Synchronization processes in nonlinear systems and their relation to cortical oscillatory dynamics

  • Avgis Hadjipapas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis was focused on theoretical models of synchronization to cortical dynamics as measured by magnetoencephalography (MEG). Dynamical systems theory was used in both identifying relevant variables for brain coordination and also in devising methods for their quantification. We presented a method for studying interactions of linear and chaotic neuronal sources using MEG beamforming techniques. We showed that such sources can be accurately reconstructed in terms of their location, temporal dynamics and possible interactions.
Synchronization in low-dimensional nonlinear systems was studied to explore specific correlates of functional integration and segregation. In the case of interacting dissimilar systems, relevant coordination phenomena involved generalized and phase synchronization, which were often intermittent. Spatially-extended systems were then studied. For locally-coupled dissimilar systems, as in the case of cortical columns, clustering behaviour occurred. Synchronized clusters emerged at different frequencies and their boundaries were marked through oscillation death. The macroscopic mean field revealed sharp spectral peaks at the frequencies of the clusters and broader spectral drops at their boundaries. These results question existing models of Event Related Synchronization and Desynchronization.
We re-examined the concept of the steady-state evoked response following an AM stimulus. We showed that very little variability in the AM following response could be accounted by system noise. We presented a methodology for detecting local and global nonlinear interactions from MEG data in order to account for residual variability. We found crosshemispheric nonlinear interactions of ongoing cortical rhythms concurrent with the stimulus and interactions of these rhythms with the following AM responses.
Finally, we hypothesized that holistic spatial stimuli would be accompanied by the emergence of clusters in primary visual cortex resulting in frequency-specific MEG oscillations. Indeed, we found different frequency distributions in induced gamma oscillations for different spatial stimuli, which was suggestive of temporal coding of these spatial stimuli. Further, we addressed the bursting character of these oscillations, which was suggestive of intermittent nonlinear dynamics. However, we did not observe the characteristic-3/2 power-law scaling in the distribution of interburst intervals. Further, this distribution was only seldom significantly different to the one obtained in surrogate data, where nonlinear structure was destroyed.
In conclusion, the work presented in this thesis suggests that advances in dynamical systems theory in conjunction with developments in magnetoencephalography may facilitate a mapping between levels of description int he brain. this may potentially represent a major advancement in neuroscience.
Date of AwardApr 2005
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorIan E Holliday (Supervisor)


  • magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • dynamical systems theory
  • chaotic synchronization
  • intermittency
  • event-related synchronization (ERS)
  • desynchronization (ERD)

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