Modulation of alpha power at encoding and retrieval tracks the precision of visual short-term memory.
Poliakov E., Stokes MG., Woolrich MW., Mantini D., Astle DE.
Our ability to hold information in mind is strictly limited. We sought to understand the relationship between oscillatory brain activity and the allocation of resources within visual short-term memory (VSTM). Participants attempted to remember target arrows embedded among distracters and used a continuous method of responding to report their memory for a cued target item. Trial-to-trial variability in the absolute circular accuracy with which participants could report the target was predicted by event-related alpha synchronization during initial processing of the memoranda and by alpha desynchronization during the retrieval of those items from VSTM. Using a model-based approach, we were also able to explore further which parameters of VSTM-guided behavior were most influenced by alpha band changes. Alpha synchronization during item processing enhanced the precision with which an item could be retained without affecting the likelihood of an item being represented per se (as indexed by the guessing rate). Importantly, our data outline a neural mechanism that mirrors the precision with which items are retained; the greater the alpha power enhancement during encoding, the greater the precision with which that item can be retained.