Common oscillatory mechanisms across multiple memory systems

NPJ Sci Learn. 2017;2:1. doi: 10.1038/s41539-016-0001-2. Epub 2017 Jan 5.


The cortex, hippocampus, and striatum support dissociable forms of memory. While each of these regions contains specialized circuitry supporting their respective functions, all structure their activities across time with delta, theta, and gamma rhythms. We review how these oscillations are generated and how they coordinate distinct memory systems during encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. First, gamma oscillations occur in all regions and coordinate local spiking, compressing it into short population bursts. Second, gamma oscillations are modulated by delta and theta oscillations. Third, oscillatory dynamics in these memory systems can operate in either a 'slow' or 'fast' mode. The slow mode happens during slow-wave sleep (SWS) and is characterized by large irregular activity in the hippocampus and delta oscillations in cortical and striatal circuits. The fast mode occurs during active waking and REM and is characterized by theta oscillations in the hippocampus and its targets, along with gamma oscillations in the rest of cortex. In waking, the fast mode is associated with the efficacious encoding and retrieval of declarative and procedural memories. Theta and gamma oscillations have the similar relationships with encoding and retrieval across multiple forms of memory and brain regions, despite regional differences in microcircuitry and information content. Differences in the oscillatory coordination of memory systems during sleep might explain why the consolidation of some forms of memory is sensitive to SWS, while others depend on REM. In particular, theta oscillations appear to support the consolidation of certain types of procedural memories during REM, while delta oscillations during SWS seem to promote declarative and procedural memories.