The neocortex is composed of six anatomically and physiologically specialized layers. It has been proposed that integration of activity across cortical areas is mediated anatomically by associative connections terminating in superficial layers, and physiologically by slow cortical rhythms. However, the means through which neocortical anatomy and physiology interact to coordinate neural activity remains obscure. Using laminar microelectrode arrays in 19 human participants, we found that most EEG activity is below 10-Hz (delta/theta) and generated by superficial cortical layers during both wakefulness and sleep. Cortical surface grid, grid-laminar, and dual-laminar recordings demonstrate that these slow rhythms are synchronous within upper layers across broad cortical areas. The phase of this superficial slow activity is reset by infrequent stimuli and coupled to the amplitude of faster oscillations and neuronal firing across all layers. These findings support a primary role of superficial slow rhythms in generating the EEG and integrating cortical activity.
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