Causal Evidence for a Role of Theta and Alpha Oscillations in the Control of Working Memory.

Riddle, J, Scimeca JM, Cellier D, Dhanani S, D'Esposito M.  2020.  Causal Evidence for a Role of Theta and Alpha Oscillations in the Control of Working Memory., 2020 Apr 06. Current biology : CB.


Working memory (WM) relies on the prioritization of relevant information and suppression of irrelevant information [1, 2]. Prioritizing relevant information has been linked to theta frequency neural oscillations in lateral prefrontal cortex and suppressing irrelevant information has been linked to alpha oscillations in occipito-parietal cortex [3,11]. Here, we used a retrospective-cue WM paradigm to manipulate prioritization and suppression task demands designed to drive theta oscillations in prefrontal cortex and alpha oscillations in parietal cortex, respectively. To causally test the role of these neural oscillations, we applied rhythmic transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in either theta or alpha frequency to prefrontal and parietal regions identified using functional MRI. The effect of rhythmic TMS on WM performance was dependent on whether the TMS frequency matched or mismatched the expected underlying task-driven oscillations of the targeted region. Functional MRI in the targeted regions predicted subsequent TMS effects across subjects supporting a model by which theta oscillations are excitatory to neural activity, and alpha oscillations are inhibitory. Together, these results causally establish dissociable roles for prefrontal theta oscillations and parietal alpha oscillations in the control of internally maintained WM representations.