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Flexible control over currently relevant sensory representations is an essential feature of primate cognition. We investigated the neurophysiological bases of such flexible control in humans during an intermodal working memory task in which participants retained visual or tactile sequences. Using magnetoencephalography, we first show that working memory retention engages early visual and somatosensory areas, as reflected in the sustained load-dependent suppression of alpha and beta oscillations. Next, we identify three components that are also load dependent but modality independent: medial prefrontal theta synchronization, frontoparietal gamma synchronization, and sustained parietal event-related fields. Critically, these domain-general components predict (across trials and within load conditions) the modality-specific suppression of alpha and beta oscillations, with largely unique contributions per component. Thus, working memory engages multiple complementary frontoparietal components that have discernible neuronal dynamics and that flexibly modulate retention-related activity in sensory areas in a manner that tracks the current contents of working memory.

Original publication

DOI

10.1162/jocn_a_01129

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Cogn Neurosci

Publication Date

08/2017

Volume

29

Pages

1455 - 1472