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Int J Psychophysiol. 1996 Nov;24(1-2):61-100.

Memory processes, brain oscillations and EEG synchronization.

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  • University of Salzburg, Department of Physiological Psychology, Austria.


This article tries to integrate results in memory research from divergent disciplines such as cognitive psychology, neuroanatomy, and neurophysiology. The integrating link is seen in more recent findings that provide strong arguments for the assumption that oscillations are a basic form of communication between cortical cell assemblies. It is assumed that synchronous oscillations of large cell assemblies--termed type 1 synchronization--reflect a resting state or possibly even a state of functional inhibition. On the other hand, during mental activity, when different neuronal networks may start to oscillate with different frequencies, each network may still oscillate synchronously (this is termed type 2 synchronization), but as a consequence, the large scale type 1 oscillation disappears. It is argued that these different types of synchronization can be observed in the scalp EEG by calculating event-related power changes within comparatively narrow but individually adjusted frequency bands. Experimental findings are discussed which support the hypothesis that short-term (episodic) memory demands lead to a synchronization (increase in band power) in the theta band, whereas long-term (semantic) memory demands lead to a task-specific desynchronization (decrease or suppression of power) in the upper alpha band. Based on these and other findings, a new memory model is proposed that is described on three levels: cognitive, anatomical and neurophysiological. It is suggested that short-term (episodic) memory processes are reflected by oscillations in an anterior limbic system, whereas long-term (semantic) memory processes are reflected by oscillations in a posterior-thalamic system. Oscillations in these frequency bands possibly provide the basis for encoding, accessing, and retrieving cortical codes that are stored in the form of widely distributed but intensely interconnected cell assemblies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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