Supramodal theta, gamma, and sustained fields predict modality-specific modulations of alpha and beta oscillations during visual and tactile working memory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • University of Oxford
  • Radboud University Nijmegen


Flexible control over currently relevant sensory representations is an essential feature of primate cognition. We investigated the neurophysiological bases of such flexible control in humans during an intermodal working memory task in which participants retained visual or tactile sequences. Using magnetoencephalography, we first show that working memory retention engages early visual and somatosensory areas, as reflected in the sustained load-dependent suppression of alpha and beta oscillations. Next, we identify three components that are also load-dependent, but that are modality independent: medial prefrontal theta synchronization, fronto-parietal gamma synchronization, and sustained parietal event-related-fields. Critically, these domain-general components predict (across trials and within load conditions) the modality-specific suppression of alpha and beta oscillations, with largely unique contributions per component. Thus, working memory engages multiple complementary fronto-parietal components that have discernible neuronal dynamics and that flexibly modulate retention-related activity in sensory areas in a manner that tracks the current contents of working memory.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbera01129
Pages (from-to)1455-1472
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number8
Early online date30 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Fronto-parietal Control , Magnetoencephalography , Neuronal Oscillations , Supramodal , Working Memory