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J Cogn Neurosci. 2017 Aug;29(8):1415-1432. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01133. Epub 2017 Apr 7.

Modulation of Oscillatory Power and Connectivity in the Human Posterior Cingulate Cortex Supports the Encoding and Retrieval of Episodic Memories.

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University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center.
University of Texas at Dallas.


Existing data from noninvasive studies have led researchers to posit that the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) supports mnemonic processes: It exhibits degeneration in memory disorders, and fMRI investigations have demonstrated memory-related activation principally during the retrieval of memory items. Despite these data, the role of the PCC in episodic memory has received only limited treatment using the spatial and temporal precision of intracranial EEG, with previous analyses focused on item retrieval. Using data gathered from 21 human participants who underwent stereo-EEG for seizure localization, we characterized oscillatory patterns in the PCC during the encoding and retrieval of episodic memories. We identified a subsequent memory effect during item encoding characterized by increased gamma band oscillatory power and a low-frequency power desynchronization. Fourteen participants had stereotactic electrodes located simultaneously in the hippocampus and PCC, and with these unique data, we describe connectivity changes between these structures that predict successful item encoding and that precede item retrieval. Oscillatory power during retrieval matched the pattern we observed during encoding, with low-frequency (below 15 Hz) desynchronization and a gamma band (especially high gamma, 70-180 Hz) power increase. Encoding is characterized by synchrony between the hippocampus and PCC, centered at 3 Hz, consistent with other observations of properties of this oscillation akin to those for rodent theta activity. We discuss our findings in light of existing theories of episodic memory processing, including the information via desynchronization hypothesis and retrieved context theory, and examine how our data fit with existing theories for the functional role of the PCC. These include a postulated role for the PCC in modulating internally directed attention and for representing or integrating contextual information for memory items.

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