Investigating the role of phase-synchrony during encoding of episodic memories using electrical stimulation

Mircea van der Plas, Danying Wang, John Stuart Brittain, Simon Hanslmayr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The multi-sensory nature of episodic memories indicates that communication between a multitude of brain areas is required for their effective creation and recollection. Previous studies have suggested that the effectiveness of memory processes depends on theta synchronization (4 Hz) of sensory areas relevant to the memory. This study aimed to manipulate theta synchronization between different sensory areas in order to further test this hypothesis. We intend to entrain visual cortex with 4 Hz alternating current stimulation (tACS), while simultaneously entraining auditory cortex with 4 Hz amplitude-modulated sounds. By entraining these different sensory areas, which pertain to learned audio–visual memory associations, we expect to find that when theta is synchronized across the different sensory areas, the memory performance would be enhanced compared to when theta is not synchronized across the sensory areas. We found no evidence for such an effect in this study. It is unclear whether this is due to an inability of 4 Hz tACS to entrain the visual cortex reliably, or whether sensory entrainment is not the underlying mechanism required for episodic memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Episodic memory
  • tACS
  • Theta oscillations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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