Frontal theta and beta synchronizations for monetary reward increase visual working memory capacity

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Visual working memory (VWM) capacity is affected by motivational influences; however, little is known about how reward-related brain activities facilitate the VWM systems. To investigate the dynamic relationship between VWM- and reward-related brain activities, we conducted time–frequency analyses using electroencephalograph (EEG) data obtained during a monetary-incentive delayed-response task that required participants to memorize the position of colored disks. In case of a correct answer, participants received a monetary reward (0, 10 or 50 Japanese yen) announced at the beginning of each trial. Behavioral results showed that VWM capacity under high-reward condition significantly increased compared with that under low- or no-reward condition. EEG results showed that frontal theta (6 Hz) amplitudes enhanced during delay periods and positively correlated with VWM capacity, indicating involvement of theta local synchronizations in VWM. Moreover, frontal beta activities (24 Hz) were identified as reward-related activities, because delay-period amplitudes correlated with increases in VWM capacity between high-reward and no-reward conditions. Interestingly, cross-frequency couplings between frontal theta and beta phases were observed only under high-reward conditions. These findings suggest that the functional dynamic linking between VWM-related theta and reward-related beta activities on the frontal regions plays an integral role in facilitating increases in VWM capacity.

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