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Evidence for Human Fronto-Central Gamma Activity during Long-Term Memory Encoding of Word Sequences

By Esther Berendina Meeuwissen, Atsuko Takashima, Guillén Fernández and Ole Jensen


Although human gamma activity (30–80 Hz) associated with visual processing is often reported, it is not clear to what extend gamma activity can be reliably detected non-invasively from frontal areas during complex cognitive tasks such as long term memory (LTM) formation. We conducted a memory experiment composed of 35 blocks each having three parts: LTM encoding, working memory (WM) maintenance and LTM retrieval. In the LTM encoding and WM maintenance parts, participants had to respectively encode or maintain the order of three sequentially presented words. During LTM retrieval subjects had to reproduce these sequences. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) we identified significant differences in the gamma and beta activity. Robust gamma activity (55–65 Hz) in left BA6 (supplementary motor area (SMA)/pre-SMA) was stronger during LTM rehearsal than during WM maintenance. The gamma activity was sustained throughout the 3.4 s rehearsal period during which a fixation cross was presented. Importantly, the difference in gamma band activity correlated with memory performance over subjects. Further we observed a weak gamma power difference in left BA6 during the first half of the LTM rehearsal interval larger for successfully than unsuccessfully reproduced word triplets. In the beta band, we found a power decrease in left anterior regions during LTM rehearsal compared to WM maintenance. Also this suppression of beta power correlated with memory performance over subjects. Our findings show that an extended network of brain areas, characterized by oscillatory activity in different frequency bands, supports the encoding of word sequences in LTM. Gamma band activity in BA6 possibly reflects memory processes associated with language and timing, and suppression of beta activity at left frontal sensors is likely to reflect the release of inhibition directly associated with the engagement of language functions

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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