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Theta-alpha cross-frequency synchronization facilitates working memory control – a modeling study

David Chik

Author Affiliations

Department of Brain Science and Engineering, Kyushu Institute of Technology, Kyushu, Japan

SpringerPlus 2013, 2:14  doi:10.1186/2193-1801-2-14

Published: 17 January 2013


Despite decades of research, the neural mechanism of central executive and working memory is still unclear. In this paper, we propose a new neural network model for the real-time control of working memory. The key idea is to consider separately the role of neural activation from that of oscillatory phase. Neural populations encoding different information would not confuse each other when the populations have different oscillatory phases. Depending on the current situation, relevant memories bind together through phase-locking between theta-frequency oscillation of a Central Unit and alpha-frequency oscillations of the relevant group of Memory Units. The Central Unit dynamically controls which Memory Units should be synchronized (and the encoded memory would be processed), and which units should be out of phase (the encoded memory is standby and would not be processed yet). Simulations of two working memory tasks are provided as examples. The model is in agreement with many recent experimental results of human scalp EEG analysis, which reported observations of neural synchronization and cross-frequency coupling during working memory tasks. This model offers a possible explanation of the underlying mechanism for these experiments.

Working memory; Synchronization; Cross-frequency