Event-related desynchronization in the alpha band and the processing of semantic information

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 1997 Oct;6(2):83-94. doi: 10.1016/s0926-6410(97)00018-9.


The hypothesis was tested whether event-related power shifts in the upper alpha band are specifically related to semantic memory processes. In Expt. 1 subjects had to judge whether pairs of sequentially presented words (W1-W2) were semantically congruent. In the following experiments subjects were presented the W1 words of Expt. 1 and were asked to perform a free association task in Expt. 2 and a cued recall task in Expt. 3. It is assumed that semantic memory demands dominate in Expt. 1, whereas working memory demands dominate in Expt. 3 and that Expt. 2 takes an intermediate position with respect to both types of task demands. A significant task-related power change that responds selectively to semantic processing demands was found for the upper alpha band and over the left side of the scalp. The lower alpha band, on the other hand, most likely reflects unspecific processing demands such as attention. A more general interpretation of these findings is that different cognitive processes such as semantic memory, perceptual encoding and attentional processes are reflected by band power changes in different and rather narrow frequency bands over localized regions in the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm / psychology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cortical Synchronization / psychology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology