Information processing systems must identify and encode relations that can be defined in space and time. Both dimensions are used by the nervous systems to handle relations. Relations among signals of different origin are established via selective convergence of connections on target cells in the anatomical layout of the nervous systems. Furthermore, relations can be expressed more dynamically by adjusting the signals’ temporal rather than spatial contiguity. This chapter examines rhythmic modulation of neuronal activity and context as well as task-dependent modulation of oscillation frequencies and phases in the neocortex. More specifically, it discusses precise temporal relations among the discharges of neurons and synchrony as a tag of relatedness, oscillations as a timing mechanism, and the duration of synchronized events. It also considers functions attributed to synchronization, including binding, attention, and stimulus selection. Finally, the chapter looks at how signals become part of consciousness and analyzes the link between abnormal synchrony and mental disorders.
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