Understanding the fundamental mechanisms governing fluctuating oscillations in large-scale cortical circuits is a crucial prelude to a proper knowledge of their role in both adaptive and pathological cortical processes. Neuroscience research in this area has much to gain from understanding the Kuramoto model, a mathematical model that speaks to the very nature of coupled oscillating processes, and which has elucidated the core mechanisms of a range of biological and physical phenomena. In this paper, we provide a brief introduction to the Kuramoto model in its original, rather abstract, form and then focus on modifications that increase its neurobiological plausibility by incorporating topological properties of local cortical connectivity. The extended model elicits elaborate spatial patterns of synchronous oscillations that exhibit persistent dynamical instabilities reminiscent of cortical activity. We review how the Kuramoto model may be recast from an ordinary differential equation to a population level description using the nonlinear Fokker-Planck equation. We argue that such formulations are able to provide a mechanistic and unifying explanation of oscillatory phenomena in the human cortex, such as fluctuating beta oscillations, and their relationship to basic computational processes including multistability, criticality, and information capacity. © 2010 Breakspear, Heitmann and Daffertshofer.