'Paradoxical' alpha synchronization in a memory task

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 1999 Mar;7(4):493-501. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(98)00056-1.


The results of a specially designed memory search paradigm which maximizes episodic short-term memory (STM) and minimizes semantic long-term memory (LTM) demands show that the upper alpha band synchronizes selectively in those conditions and time intervals where episodic STM demands are maximal. This finding of a selective alpha synchronization occurring only in the upper alpha band and during highest task demands is surprising because it is well known that usually alpha desynchronizes during mental activity. Because experiments from our laboratory indicate that desynchronization in the upper alpha band is related to semantic LTM processes, the present finding suggests that a selective synchronization in this frequency band reflects inhibition of semantic LTM. It is assumed that once the capacity limits of STM are reached or exceeded, processing resources are no longer distributed and that potentially interfering, task irrelevant, brain areas or processing systems are inhibited.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*