Human theta oscillations exhibit task dependence during virtual maze navigation

Nature. 1999 Jun 24;399(6738):781-4. doi: 10.1038/21645.


Theta oscillations (electroencephalographic activity with a frequency of 4-8 Hz) have long been implicated in spatial navigation in rodents; however, the role of theta oscillators in human spatial navigation has not been explored. Here we describe subdural recordings from epileptic patients learning to navigate computer-generated mazes. Visual inspection of the raw intracranial signal revealed striking episodes of high-amplitude slow-wave oscillations at a number of areas of the cortex, including temporal cortex. Spectral analysis showed that these oscillations were in the theta band. These episodes of theta activity, which typically last several cycles, are dependent on task characteristics. Theta oscillations occur more frequently in more complex mazes; they are also more frequent during recall trials than during learning trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Oscillometry
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Theta Rhythm*