Hot off the press: Oscillatory Brain State and Variability in Working Memory
In a new paper, Nick Myers and colleagues show how spontaneous fluctuations in
alpha-band synchronization over visual cortex predict the trial-by-trial accuracy of items stored in visual working memory. The pre-stimulus desynchronization of alpha oscillations correlated with the accuracy of memory recall. A model-based analysis indicated that this effect arises from a modulation in the precision of memorized items, but not the likelihood of remembering them (the recall rate). The phase of posterior alpha oscillations preceding the memorized item also predicted memory accuracy. The study highlights the influence of spontaneous changes in cortical excitability on higher visual cognition, and how these state changes contribute to large amounts of variability in what is normally thought of as a stable aspect of behavior.