Prestimulus theta activity predicts correct source memory retrieval

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jun 28;108(26):10702-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1014528108. Epub 2011 Jun 13.


Recent evidence indicates that the processing of a stimulus can be influenced by preceding patterns of brain activity. Here we examine whether prestimulus oscillatory brain activity can influence the ability to retrieve episodic memories. Neural activity in the theta-frequency band (4-8 Hz) was enhanced before presentation of test items which elicited accurate recollection of contextual details of the prior study episode ("source retrieval"), relative to trials for which item recognition was successful but source retrieval failed. Poststimulus theta activity was also related to source retrieval, and the magnitude of poststimulus theta was predicted by the magnitude of the prestimulus theta effects. The results suggest that ongoing neural processes occurring before stimulus onset might play a critical role in readying the brain for successful memory retrieval.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*