Entrainment of prefrontal beta oscillations induces an endogenous echo and impairs memory formation

Simon Hanslmayr*, Jonas Matuschek, Marie Christin Fellner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Brain oscillations across all frequency bands play a key role for memory formation [1-4]. Specifically, desynchronization of local neuronal assemblies in the left inferior prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the beta frequency (∼18 Hz) has been shown to be central for encoding of verbal memories [5-8]. However, it remains elusive whether prefrontal beta desynchronization is causally relevant for memory formation and whether these endogenous beta oscillations can be entrained by external stimulation. By using combined EEG-TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), we here address these fundamental questions in human participants performing a word-list learning task. Confirming our predictions, memory encoding was selectively impaired when the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) was driven at beta (18.7 Hz) compared to stimulation at other frequencies (6.8 Hz and 10.7 Hz) and to ineffective sham stimulation (18.7 Hz). Furthermore, a sustained oscillatory "echo" in the left IFG, which outlasted the stimulation period by approximately 1.5 s, was observed solely after beta stimulation. The strength of this beta echo was related to memory impairment on a between-subjects level. These results show endogenous oscillatory entrainment effects and behavioral impairment selectively in beta frequency for stimulation of the left IFG, demonstrating an intimate causal relationship between prefrontal beta desynchronization and memory formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904-909
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Entrainment of prefrontal beta oscillations induces an endogenous echo and impairs memory formation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this