Medial prefrontal theta phase coupling during spatial memory retrieval

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Memory retrieval is believed to involve a disparate network of areas, including medial prefrontal and medial temporal cortices, but the mechanisms underlying their coordination remain elusive. One suggestion is that oscillatory coherence mediates inter-regional communication, implicating theta phase and theta-gamma phase-amplitude coupling in mnemonic function across species. To examine this hypothesis, we used non-invasive whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) as participants retrieved the location of objects encountered within a virtual environment. We demonstrate that, when participants are cued with the image of an object whose location they must subsequently navigate to, there is a significant increase in 4–8 Hz theta power in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and the phase of this oscillation is coupled both with ongoing theta phase in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) and perceptually induced 65–85 Hz gamma amplitude in medial parietal cortex. These results suggest that theta phase coupling between mPFC and MTL and theta-gamma phase-amplitude coupling between mPFC and neocortical regions may play a role in human spatial memory retrieval.

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