Event-related desynchronization (ERD) and synchronization (ERS) of the lower (8-10 Hz) and upper (10-12 Hz) alpha bands of background EEG were studied in 10 subjects during an auditory memory scanning paradigm. Each experimental trial started with the presentation of a visual warning signal, after which an auditory 4-vowel memory set was presented for memorization. Thereafter the probe, a fifth vowel, was presented and identified by the subject as belonging or not belonging to the memorized set. In 50% of the cases, the probe was among the previously presented memory set. The presentation of the memory set elicited a significant ERS in the both alpha frequency bands. In contrast, the presentation of the probe elicited a significant bilateral ERD in both alpha frequency bands studied. The results suggest that the ERD phenomenon is closely associated with higher cortical processes such as memory functions rather than with auditory stimulus processing per se. Event-related desynchronization provides a potentially valuable tool for studying cortical activity during cognitive processing in the auditory stimulus modality.