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Does theta synchronicity of sensory information enhance associative memory? Replicating the theta-induced memory effect.

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Wang, Danying 
Davis, Matthew H 


The binding of information from different sensory or neural sources is critical for associative memory. Previous research in animals suggested that the timing of theta oscillations in the hippocampus is critical for long-term potentiation, which underlies associative and episodic memory. Studies with human participants showed correlations between theta oscillations in medial temporal lobe and episodic memory. Clouter et al. directly investigated this link by modulating the intensity of the luminance and the sound of the video clips so that they 'flickered' at certain frequencies and with varying synchronicity between the visual and auditory streams. Across several experiments, better memory was found for stimuli that flickered synchronously at theta frequency compared with no-flicker, asynchronous theta, or synchronous alpha and delta frequencies. This effect - which they called the theta-induced memory effect - is consistent with the importance of theta synchronicity for long-term potentiation. In addition, electroencephalography data showed entrainment of cortical regions to the visual and auditory flicker, and that synchronicity was achieved in neuronal oscillations (with a fixed delay between visual and auditory streams). The theoretical importance, large effect size, and potential application to enhance real-world memory mean that a replication of theta-induced memory effect would be highly valuable. The present study aimed to replicate the key differences among synchronous theta, asynchronous theta, synchronous delta, and no-flicker conditions, but within a single experiment. The results do not show evidence of improved memory for theta synchronicity in any of the comparisons. We suggest a reinterpretation of theta-induced memory effect to accommodate this non-replication.


Peer reviewed: True


Episodic memory, association, associative memory, binding, multisensory, oscillations, theta

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Brain Neurosci Adv

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SAGE Publications