Storage of 7 +/- 2 short-term memories in oscillatory subcycles

Science  10 Mar 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5203, pp. 1512-1515
DOI: 10.1126/science.7878473


Psychophysical measurements indicate that human subjects can store approximately seven short-term memories. Physiological studies suggest that short-term memories are stored by patterns of neuronal activity. Here it is shown that activity patterns associated with multiple memories can be stored in a single neural network that exhibits nested oscillations similar to those recorded from the brain. Each memory is stored in a different high-frequency ("40 hertz") subcycle of a low-frequency oscillation. Memory patterns repeat on each low-frequency (5 to 12 hertz) oscillation, a repetition that relies on activity-dependent changes in membrane excitability rather than reverberatory circuits. This work suggests that brain oscillations are a timing mechanism for controlling the serial processing of short-term memories.

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