In your phase: neural phase synchronisation underlies visual imagery of faces

Andrés Canales-Johnson, Renzo C. Lanfranco, Juan Pablo Morales, David Martínez-Pernía, Joaquín Valdés, Alejandro Ezquerro-Nassar, Álvaro Rivera-Rei, Agustín Ibanez, Srivas Chennu, Tristan A. Bekinschtein, David Huepe, Valdas Noreika

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Mental imagery is the process through which we retrieve and recombine information from our memory to elicit the subjective impression of “seeing with the mind’s eye”. In the social domain, we imagine other individuals while recalling our encounters with them or modelling alternative social interactions in future. Many studies using imaging and neurophysiological techniques have shown several similarities in brain activity between visual imagery and visual perception, and have identified frontoparietal, occipital and temporal neural components of visual imagery. However, the neural connectivity between these regions during visual imagery of socially relevant stimuli has not been studied. Here we used electroencephalography to investigate neural connectivity and its dynamics between frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal electrodes during visual imagery of faces. We found that voluntary visual imagery of faces is associated with long-range phase synchronisation in the gamma frequency range between frontoparietal electrode pairs and between occipitoparietal electrode pairs. In contrast, no effect of imagery was observed in the connectivity between occipitotemporal electrode pairs. Gamma range synchronisation between occipitoparietal electrode pairs predicted subjective ratings of the contour definition of imagined faces. Furthermore, we found that visual imagery of faces is associated with an increase of short-range frontal synchronisation in the theta frequency range, which temporally preceded the long-range increase in the gamma synchronisation. We speculate that the local frontal synchrony in the theta frequency range might be associated with an effortful top-down mnemonic reactivation of faces. In contrast, the long-range connectivity in the gamma frequency range along the fronto-parieto-occipital axis might be related to the endogenous binding and subjective clarity of facial visual features.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2401
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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