The functional significance of theta and upper alpha oscillations

Exp Psychol. 2005;52(2):99-108. doi: 10.1027/1618-3169.52.2.99.


Recent findings are reviewed indicating that upper alpha oscillations - when analyzed with appropriate time/ frequency resolution - show a similar physiological reactivity as theta in working memory tasks. Comparable to theta, a load dependent increase in power can be observed during retention and increased evoked activity during retrieval. During retrieval attempts theta behaves like a traveling wave spreading from anterior to posterior sites. During actual retrieval, however, evoked upper alpha becomes transiently nested in theta. We suggest that theta reflects working memory functions whereas upper alpha may be important for the reactivation of long-term memory codes in short-term memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cortical Synchronization / instrumentation
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Theta Rhythm*