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Brain Res. 2009 Jan 9;1247:126-32. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2008.09.095. Epub 2008 Oct 17.

Coherent oscillatory networks supporting short-term memory retention.

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Program of Neuroscience, Drexel University, 245 N. 15th Street, Mail Stop 626, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1192, USA.


Accumulating evidence suggests that top-down processes, reflected by frontal-midline theta-band (4-8 Hz) electroencephalogram (EEG) oscillations, strengthen the activation of a memory set during short-term memory (STM) retention. In addition, the amplitude of posterior alpha-band (8-13 Hz) oscillations during STM retention is thought to reflect a mechanism that protects fragile STM activations from interference by gating bottom-up sensory inputs. The present study addressed two important questions about these phenomena. First, why have previous studies not consistently found memory set-size effects on frontal-midline theta? Second, how does posterior alpha participate in STM retention? To answer these questions, large-scale network connectivity during STM retention was examined by computing EEG wavelet coherence during the retention period of a modified Sternberg task using visually-presented letters as stimuli. The results showed (a) increasing theta-band coherence between frontal-midline and left temporal-parietal sites with increasing memory load, and (b) increasing alpha-band coherence between midline parietal and left temporal/parietal sites with increasing memory load. These findings support the view that theta-band coherence, rather than amplitude, is the key factor in selective top-down strengthening of the memory set and demonstrate that posterior alpha-band oscillations associated with sensory gating are involved in STM retention by participating in the STM network.

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