Internal Representations Are Prioritized by Frontoparietal Theta Connectivity and Suppressed by alpha Oscillation Dynamics: Evidence from Concurrent Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation EEG and Invasive EEG

J Neurosci. 2024 Apr 10;44(15):e1381232024. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1381-23.2024.


Control over internal representations requires the prioritization of relevant information and suppression of irrelevant information. The frontoparietal network exhibits prominent neural oscillations during these distinct cognitive processes. Yet, the causal role of this network-scale activity is unclear. Here, we targeted theta-frequency frontoparietal coherence and dynamic alpha oscillations in the posterior parietal cortex using online rhythmic transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in women and men while they prioritized or suppressed internally maintained working memory (WM) representations. Using concurrent high-density EEG, we provided evidence that we acutely drove the targeted neural oscillation and TMS improved WM capacity only when the evoked activity corresponded with the desired cognitive process. To suppress an internal representation, we increased the amplitude of lateralized alpha oscillations in the posterior parietal cortex contralateral to the irrelevant visual field. For prioritization, we found that TMS to the prefrontal cortex increased theta-frequency connectivity in the prefrontoparietal network contralateral to the relevant visual field. To understand the spatial specificity of these effects, we administered the WM task to participants with implanted electrodes. We found that theta connectivity during prioritization was directed from the lateral prefrontal to the superior posterior parietal cortex. Together, these findings provide causal evidence in support of a model where a frontoparietal theta network prioritizes internally maintained representations and alpha oscillations in the posterior parietal cortex suppress irrelevant representations.

Keywords: EEG; alpha dynamics; internal representations; neural oscillations; theta connectivity; transcranial magnetic stimulation; working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*