Disentangling neocortical alpha/beta and hippocampal theta/gamma oscillations in human episodic memory formation.
Griffiths BJ., Martín-Buro MC., Staresina BP., Hanslmayr S.
To form an episodic memory, we must first process a vast amount of sensory information about the to-be-encoded event and then bind these sensory representations together to form a coherent memory trace. While these two cognitive capabilities are thought to have two distinct neural origins, with neocortical alpha/beta oscillations supporting information representation and hippocampal theta-gamma phase-amplitude coupling supporting mnemonic binding, evidence for a dissociation between these two neural markers is conspicuously absent. To address this, seventeen human participants completed an associative memory task that first involved processing information about three sequentially-presented stimuli, and then binding these stimuli together into a coherent memory trace, all the while undergoing MEG recordings. We found that decreases in neocortical alpha/beta power during sequence perception, but not mnemonic binding, correlated with enhanced memory performance. Hippocampal theta/gamma phase-amplitude coupling, however, showed the opposite pattern; increases during mnemonic binding (but not sequence perception) correlated with enhanced memory performance. These results demonstrate that memory-related decreases in neocortical alpha/beta power and memory-related increases in hippocampal theta/gamma phase-amplitude coupling arise at distinct stages of the memory formation process. We speculate that this temporal dissociation reflects a functional dissociation in which neocortical alpha/beta oscillations could support the processing of incoming information relevant to the memory, while hippocampal theta-gamma phase-amplitude coupling could support the binding of this information into a coherent memory trace.