Stochastic resonance mediates the state-dependent effect of periodic stimulation on cortical alpha oscillations

  1. Jérémie Lefebvre  Is a corresponding author
  2. Axel Hutt
  3. Flavio Frohlich
  1. Krembil Research Institute, Canada
  2. Deutscher Wetterdienst, Germany
  3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States


Brain stimulation can be used to engage and modulate rhythmic activity in brain networks. However, the outcomes of brain stimulation are shaped by behavioral states and endogenous fluctuations in brain activity. To better understand how this intrinsic oscillatory activity controls the susceptibility of the brain to stimulation, we analyzed a computational model of the thalamo-cortical system in two distinct states (rest, task-engaged) to identify the mechanisms by which endogenous alpha oscillations (8Hz-12Hz) are modulated by periodic stimulation. Our analysis shows that the different responses to stimulation observed experimentally in these brain states can be explained by a passage through a bifurcation combined with stochastic resonance - a mechanism by which irregular fluctuations amplify the response of a nonlinear system to weak periodic signals. Indeed, our findings suggest that modulating brain oscillations is best achieved in states of low endogenous rhythmic activity and that irregular state-dependent fluctuations in thalamic inputs shape the susceptibility of cortical population to periodic stimulation.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jérémie Lefebvre

    Krembil Research Institute, Toronto, Canada
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-0369-4565
  2. Axel Hutt

    Data Assimilation, Deutscher Wetterdienst, Offenbach am Main, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Flavio Frohlich

    Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN-2017-06662)

  • Jérémie Lefebvre

National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH111889)

  • Flavio Frohlich

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Saskia Haegens, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: September 15, 2017
  2. Accepted: December 22, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 27, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: March 1, 2018 (version 2)


© 2017, Lefebvre et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Jérémie Lefebvre
  2. Axel Hutt
  3. Flavio Frohlich
Stochastic resonance mediates the state-dependent effect of periodic stimulation on cortical alpha oscillations
eLife 6:e32054.

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