Working memory and neural oscillations: α-γ versus θ-γ codes for distinct WM information?

Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 Jan;18(1):16-25. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.10.010. Epub 2013 Nov 19.


Neural oscillations at different frequencies have recently been related to a wide range of basic and higher cognitive processes. One possible role of oscillatory activity is to assure the maintenance of information in working memory (WM). Here we review the possibility that rhythmic activity at theta, alpha, and gamma frequencies serve distinct functional roles during WM maintenance. Specifically, we propose that gamma-band oscillations are generically involved in the maintenance of WM information. By contrast, alpha-band activity reflects the active inhibition of task-irrelevant information, whereas theta-band oscillations underlie the organization of sequentially ordered WM items. Finally, we address the role of cross-frequency coupling (CFC) in enabling alpha-gamma and theta-gamma codes for distinct WM information.

Keywords: MEG/EEG; cell assemblies; cognition; cross-frequency coupling; oscillations; working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology