Enhancing early consolidation of human episodic memory by theta EEG neurofeedback

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Abstract

Consolidation of newly formed memories is readily disrupted, but can it be enhanced? Given the prominent role of hippocampal theta oscillations in memory formation and retrieval, we hypothesized that upregulating theta power during early stages of consolidation might benefit memory stability and persistence. We used EEG neurofeedback to enable participants to selectively increase theta power in their EEG spectra following episodic memory encoding, while other participants engaged in low beta-focused neurofeedback or passively viewed a neutral nature movie. Free recall assessments immediately following the interventions, 24 h later and 7 d later all indicated benefit to memory of theta neurofeedback, relative to low beta neurofeedback or passive movie-viewing control conditions. The degree of benefit to memory was correlated with the extent of theta power modulation, but not with other spectral changes. Theta enhancement may provide optimal conditions for stabilization of new hippocampus-dependent memories.

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