Thalamic theta phase alignment predicts human memory formation and anterior thalamic cross-frequency coupling


Previously we reported electrophysiological evidence for a role for the anterior thalamic nucleus (ATN) in human memory formation (Sweeney-Reed et al. 2014). Theta-gamma cross-frequency coupling (CFC) predicted successful memory formation, with the involvement of gamma oscillations suggesting memory-relevant local processing in the ATN. The importance of the theta frequency range in memory processing is well-established, and phase alignment of oscillations is considered to be necessary for synaptic plasticity. We hypothesized that theta phase alignment in the ATN would be necessary for memory encoding. Further analysis of the electrophysiological data reveal that phase alignment in the theta rhythm was greater during successful compared with unsuccessful encoding, and that this alignment was correlated with the CFC. These findings support an active processing role for the ATN during memory formation.