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  1. Abstract Working memory, the ability to hold items in memory stores for further manipulation, is a higher order cognitive process that supports many aspects of daily life. Childhood trauma has been associated with altered cognitive development including particular deficits in verbal working memory (VWM), but the neural underpinnings remain poorly understood. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) studies of VWM have reliably shown decreased alpha activity in left-lateralized language regions during encoding, and increased alpha activity in parieto-occipital cortices during the maintenance phase. In this study, we examined whether childhood trauma affects behavioral performance and the oscillatory dynamics serving VWM using MEG in a cohort of 9- to 15-year-old youth. All participants completed a modified version of the UCLA Trauma History Profile and then performed a VWM task during MEG. Our findings indicated a sex-by-age-by-trauma three-way interaction, whereby younger females experiencing higher levels of trauma had the lowest d’ accuracy scores and the strongest positive correlations with age (i.e. older performed better). Likewise, females with higher levels of childhood trauma exhibited altered age-related alpha changes during the maintenance phase within the right temporal and parietal cortices. These findings suggest that trauma exposure may alter the developmental trajectory of neural oscillations serving VWM processing in a sex-specific way. 
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  2. Abstract

    Increasing spatial working memory (SWM) load is generally associated with declines in behavioral performance, but the neural correlates of load‐related behavioral effects remain poorly understood. Herein, we examine the alterations in oscillatory activity that accompany such performance changes in 22 healthy adults who performed a two‐ and four‐load SWM task during magnetoencephalography (MEG). All MEG data were transformed into the time‐frequency domain and significant oscillatory responses were imaged separately per load using a beamformer. Whole‐brain correlation maps were computed using the load‐related beamformer difference images and load‐related accuracy effects on the SWM task. The results indicated that load‐related differences in left inferior frontal alpha activity during encoding and maintenance were negatively correlated with load‐related accuracy differences on the SWM task. That is, individuals who had more substantial decreases in prefrontal alpha during high‐relative to low‐load SWM trials tended to have smaller performance decrements on the high‐load condition (i.e., they performed more accurately). The same pattern of neurobehavioral correlations was observed during the maintenance period for right superior temporal alpha activity and right superior parietal beta activity. Importantly, this is the first study to employ a voxel‐wise whole‐brain approach to significantly link load‐related oscillatory differences and load‐related SWM performance differences.

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  3. Abstract

    The ability to execute a motor plan involves spatiotemporally precise oscillatory activity in primary motor (M1) regions, in concert with recruitment of “higher order” attentional mechanisms for orienting toward current task goals. While current evidence implicates gamma oscillatory activity in M1 as central to the execution of a movement, far less is known about top‐down attentional modulation of this response. Herein, we utilized magnetoencephalography (MEG) during a Posner attention‐reorienting task to investigate top‐down modulation of M1 gamma responses by frontal attention networks in 63 healthy adult participants. MEG data were evaluated in the time–frequency domain and significant oscillatory responses were imaged using a beamformer. Robust increases in theta activity were found in bilateral inferior frontal gyri (IFG), with significantly stronger responses evident in trials that required attentional reorienting relative to those that did not. Additionally, strong gamma oscillations (60–80 Hz) were detected in M1 during movement execution, with similar responses elicited irrespective of attentional reorienting. Whole‐brain voxel‐wise correlations between validity difference scores (i.e., attention reorienting trials—nonreorienting trials) in frontal theta activity and movement‐locked gamma oscillations revealed a robust relationship in the contralateral sensorimotor cortex, supplementary motor area, and right cerebellum, suggesting modulation of these sensorimotor network gamma responses by attentional reorienting. Importantly, the validity difference effect in this distributed motor network was predictive of overall motor function measured outside the scanner and further, based on a mediation analysis this relationship was fully mediated by the reallocation response in the right IFG. These data are the first to characterize the top‐down modulation of movement‐related gamma responses during attentional reorienting and movement execution.

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  4. Key points

    Magnetoencephalography data were acquired during a leg force task in pre‐/post‐practice sessions in adolescents and adults.

    Strong peri‐movement alpha and beta oscillations were mapped to the cortex.

    Following practice, performance improved and beta oscillations were altered.

    Beta oscillations decreased in the sensorimotor cortex in adolescents after practice, but increased in adults.

    No pre‐/post‐practice differences were detected for alpha oscillations.


    There is considerable evidence that there are motor performance and practice differences between adolescents and adults. Behavioural studies have suggested that these motor performance differences are simply due to experience. However, the neurophysiological nexus for these motor performance differences remains unknown. The present study investigates the short‐term changes (e.g. fast motor learning) in the alpha and beta event‐related desynchronizations (ERDs) associated with practising an ankle plantarflexion motor action. To this end, we utilized magnetoencephalography to identify changes in the alpha and beta ERDs in healthy adolescents (n = 21; age = 14 ± 2.1 years) and middle‐aged adults (n = 22; age = 36.6 ± 5 years) after practising an isometric ankle plantarflexion target‐matching task. After practice, all of the participants matched more targets and matched the targets faster, and had improved accuracy, faster reaction times and faster force production. However, the motor performance of the adults exceeded what was seen in the adolescents regardless of practice. In conjunction with the behavioural results, the strength of the beta ERDs across the motor planning and execution stages was reduced after practice in the sensorimotor cortices of the adolescents, but was stronger in the adults. No pre‐/post‐practice changes were found in the alpha ERDs. These outcomes suggest that there are age‐dependent changes in the sensorimotor cortical oscillations after practising a motor task. We suspect that these noted differences might be related to familiarity with the motor task, GABA levels and/or maturational differences in the integrity of the white matter fibre tracts that comprise the respective cortical areas.

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  5. Abstract

    Recent studies have examined the effects of conventional transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on working memory (WM) performance, but this method has relatively low spatial precision and generally involves a reference electrode that complicates interpretation. Herein, we report a repeated-measures crossover study of 25 healthy adults who underwent multielectrode tDCS of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), right DLPFC, or sham in 3 separate visits. Shortly after each stimulation session, participants performed a verbal WM (VWM) task during magnetoencephalography, and the resulting data were examined in the time–frequency domain and imaged using a beamformer. We found that after left DLPFC stimulation, participants exhibited stronger responses across a network of left-lateralized cortical areas, including the supramarginal gyrus, prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, and cuneus, as well as the right hemispheric homologues of these regions. Importantly, these effects were specific to the alpha-band, which has been previously implicated in VWM processing. Although stimulation condition did not significantly affect performance, stepwise regression revealed a relationship between reaction time and response amplitude in the left precuneus and supramarginal gyrus. These findings suggest that multielectrode tDCS targeting the left DLPFC affects the neural dynamics underlying offline VWM processing, including utilization of a more extensive bilateral cortical network.

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  6. Abstract

    Transcranial direct‐current stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive method for modulating human brain activity. Although there are several hypotheses about the net effects of tDCS on brain function, the field's understanding remains incomplete and this is especially true for neural oscillatory activity during cognitive task performance. In this study, we examined whether different polarities of occipital tDCS differentially alter flanker task performance and the underlying neural dynamics. To this end, 48 healthy adults underwent 20 min of anodal, cathodal, or sham occipital tDCS, and then completed a visual flanker task during high‐density magnetoencephalography (MEG). The resulting oscillatory responses were imaged in the time‐frequency domain using beamforming, and the effects of tDCS on task‐related oscillations and spontaneous neural activity were assessed. The results indicated that anodal tDCS of the occipital cortices inhibited flanker task performance as measured by reaction time, elevated spontaneous activity in the theta (4–7 Hz) and alpha (9–14 Hz) bands in prefrontal and occipital cortices, respectively, and reduced task‐related theta oscillatory activity in prefrontal cortices during task performance. Cathodal tDCS of the occipital cortices did not significantly affect behavior or any of these neuronal parameters in any brain region. Lastly, the power of theta oscillations in the prefrontal cortices was inversely correlated with reaction time. In conclusion, anodal tDCS modulated task‐related oscillations and spontaneous activity across multiple cortical areas, both near the electrode and in distant sites that were putatively connected to the targeted regions.

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