Oscillations and Episodic Memory: Addressing the Synchronization/Desynchronization Conundrum

Trends Neurosci. 2016 Jan;39(1):16-25. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2015.11.004.


Brain oscillations are one of the core mechanisms underlying episodic memory. However, while some studies highlight the role of synchronized oscillatory activity, others highlight the role of desynchronized activity. We here describe a framework to resolve this conundrum and integrate these two opposing oscillatory behaviors. Specifically, we argue that the synchronization and desynchronization reflect a division of labor between a hippocampal and a neocortical system, respectively. We describe a novel oscillatory framework that integrates synchronization and desynchronization mechanisms to explain how the two systems interact in the service of episodic memory.

Keywords: MTL; alpha/beta; complementary learning systems; cross-frequency coupling; episodic memory; gamma; hippocampus; oscillations; theta.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Neocortex / physiology*