Temporally distinct oscillatory codes of retention and manipulation of verbal working memory


textlessptextgreaterMost psychophysiological studies of working memory (WM) target only the short-term memory construct, while short-term memory is only a part of the WM responsible for the storage of sensory information. Much less effort has been devoted to study brain mechanisms supporting the executive components of WM - the part responsible for the manipulation of information. Here, 156 human participants (82 females) performed two tasks requiring either simple retention or retention and manipulation of verbal information in WM. A relatively long delay period (> 6 s) was employed to investigate the temporal trajectory of the oscillatory brain activity using EEG. Compared to baseline, theta activity was significantly enhanced during encoding and the delay period. Alpha-band power decreased during encoding and switched to an increase in the first part of the delay before returning to the baseline in the second part; beta-band power remained below baseline during all three time intervals. The difference between the manipulation and retention tasks in spectral power had diverse temporal trajectories in different frequency bands. The difference maintained over encoding and the first part of the delay in theta, during the first part of the delay in beta, and during the whole delay period in alpha. Our results suggest that task-related modulations in theta power co-vary with the demands on the executive control network; beta suppression during mental manipulation can be related to the activation of motor networks; alpha is likely to reflect the activation of language areas simultaneously with sensory input blockade.textless/ptextgreater