Localization of cortical phase and amplitude dynamics during visual working memory encoding and retention

Satu Palva*, Shrikanth Kulashekhar, Matti Hämäläinen, J. Matias Palva

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


Several studies show that the amplitudes of human brain oscillations are modulated during the performance of visual working memory (VWM) tasks in a load-dependent manner. Less is known about the dynamics and identities of the cortical regions in which these modulations take place, and hence their functional significance has remained unclear. We used magneto encephalography and electroencephalography together with minimum norm estimate-based source modeling to study the dynamics of ongoing brain activity during a parametric VWM task. Early stimulus processing and memory encoding were associated with a memory load-dependent spread of neuronal activity from occipital to temporal, parietal, and frontal cortical regions. During the VWM retention period, the amplitudes of oscillations in theta/alpha- (5-9 Hz), high-alpha- (10-14 Hz), beta- (15-30 Hz), gamma- (30-50 Hz), and high-gamma- (50-150 Hz) frequency bands were suppressed below baseline levels, and yet, in frontoparietal regions, load dependently strengthened. However, in occipital and occipitotemporal structures, only beta, gamma, and high-gamma amplitudes were robustly strengthened by memory load. Individual behavioral VWM capacity was predicted by both the magnitude of the N1 evoked response component in early visual regions and by the amplitudes of front oparietal high-alpha and high-gamma band oscillations. Thus, both early stimulus processing and late retention period activities may influence the behavioral outcome in VWM tasks. These data support the notion that beta- and gammaband oscillations support the maintenance of object representations in VWM whereas alpha-, beta-, and gamma-band oscillations together contribute to attentional and executive processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5013-5025
Number of pages13
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2011
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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