Recent studies have suggested that beta-band oscillatory synchrony plays a role in cognition.  For example, different networks of neurons in the prefrontal cortex dynamically synchronize at beta as animals switch between two different task rules (Buschman et al., 2012) suggesting that beta synchrony is forming the neural ensembles for the rules.  Different items simultaneously held in working memory line-up on different phases of beta/low-gamma oscillations, as if the brain is juggling the two items 30 times a second (Siegel et al., 2009).  Hanslmayr et al disrupted these fine temporal relations by stimulating the human with beta-band TMS pulses.   Beta stimulation of the left inferior frontal gyrus impaired memory formation while stimulation at other frequencies did not.  There was a beta “echo” that outlasted the stimulation.  Subjects with better beta entrainment showed more memory impairment.  This lends support for the role of beta rhythms in cognition by showing a causal relationship between beta desynchrony and memory.

This paper:
Simon Hanslmayr, Jonas Matuschek, Marie-Christin Fellner, Entrainment of Prefrontal Beta Oscillations Induces an Endogenous Echo and Impairs Memory Formation, Current Biology, Available online 27 March 2014, ISSN 0960-9822

Buschman, T.J., Denovellis, E.L., Diogo, C., Bullock, D. and Miller, E.K. (2012) Synchronous oscillatory neural ensembles for rules in the prefrontal cortex. Neuron, 76: 838-846.  View PDF

Siegel, M., Warden, M.R., and Miller, E.K. (2009) Phase-dependent neuronal coding of objects in short-term memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106: 21341-21346. View PDF »  Read commentary by Vogel and Fukuda

About the Author

The Miller Lab uses experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of the high-level cognitive functions that underlie complex goal-directed behavior.