Corticothalamic phase synchrony and cross-frequency coupling predict human memory formation


The anterior thalamic nucleus (ATN) is thought to play an important role in a brain network involving the hippocampus and neocortex, which enables human memories to be formed. However, its small size and location deep within the brain have impeded direct investigation in humans with non-invasive techniques. Here we provide direct evidence for a functional role for the ATN in memory formation from rare simultaneous human intrathalamic and scalp electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings from eight volunteering patients receiving intrathalamic electrodes implanted for the treatment of epilepsy, demonstrating real-time communication between neocortex and ATN during successful memory encoding. Neocortical-ATN theta oscillatory phase synchrony of local field potentials and neocortical-theta-to-ATN-gamma cross-frequency coupling during presentation of complex photographic scenes predicted later memory for the scenes, demonstrating a key role for the ATN in human memory encoding.