To-be-memorized information in working-memory could be protected against distracting influences by processes of functional inhibition or prioritization. Modulations of oscillations in the alpha to beta range in task-relevant sensory regions have been suggested to play an important role for both mechanisms. We adapted a Sternberg task variant to the auditory modality, with a strong or a weak distracting sound presented at a predictable time during the retention period. Using a time-generalized decoding approach, relatively decreased strength of memorized information was found prior to strong distractors, paralleled by decreased pre-distractor alpha/beta power in the left superior temporal gyrus (lSTG). Over the entire group, reduced beta power in lSTG was associated with relatively increased strength of memorized information. The extent of alpha power modulations within participants was negatively correlated with strength of memorized information. Overall, our results are compatible with a prioritization account, but point to nuanced differences between alpha and beta oscillations.
Weisz, N., Kraft, N. G., & Demarchi, G. (2020). Auditory cortical alpha/beta desynchronization prioritizes the representation of memory items during a retention period. ELife, 9, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.55508