Behavioral relevance of gamma-band activity for short-term memory-based auditory decision-making

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Oscillatory activity in the gamma-band range has been established as a correlate of cognitive processes, including perception, attention and memory. Only a few studies, however, have provided evidence for an association between gamma-band activity (GBA) and measures of behavioral performance. Here we focused on the comparison between sample and test stimuli S1 and S2 during an auditory spatial short-term memory task. Applying statistical probability mapping to magnetoencephalographic recordings from 28 human subjects, we identified GBA components distinguishing nonidentical from identical S1–S2 pairs. This activity was found at frequencies between 65 and 90 Hz and was localized over posterior cortical regions contralateral to the hemifield in which the stimuli were presented. The 10 best task performers showed higher amplitudes of this GBA component than the 10 worst performers. This group difference was most pronounced between about 150 and 300 ms after stimulus onset. Apparently the decision about whether test stimuli matched the stored representation of previously presented sample sounds relied partly on the oscillatory activation of networks representing differences between both stimuli. This result could be replicated by reanalyzing the combined data from two previous studies assessing short-term memory for sound duration and sound lateralization, respectively. Similarly to our main study, GBA amplitudes to nonmatching vs. matching S1–S2 pairs were higher in good performers than poor performers. The present findings demonstrate the behavioral relevance of GBA.

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