Variability of EEG synchronization during a working memory task in healthy subjects

Cornelis J Stam, Anne-Marie van Cappellen van Walsum, Sifis Micheloyannis

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Working memory is associated with an increase in EEG theta synchronization and a decrease in lower alpha band synchronization. We investigated whether such changes in mean synchronization level are accompanied by changes in small scale fluctuations of synchronization. EEGs (19 channels; average reference; sample frequency 250 Hz) were recorded in 21 healthy subjects (12 males; mean age 62.5 years; S.D. 2.1) at rest and during a visual working memory condition. EEG synchronization was computed in six frequency bands (2-6; 6-10; 10-14; 14-18; 18-22; 22-50 Hz) using the synchronization likelihood. Variability of the synchronization was quantified with synchronization entropy. During the working memory condition synchronization increased in the 2-6 Hz band, and decreased in the 6-10, 14-18 and 18-22 Hz bands. Working memory was associated with increased variability in the 2-6 Hz band, and decreased variability in the 6-10 Hz band and, to a lesser extent, in the 14-18 and 18-22 Hz bands. Working memory is accompanied not only by characteristic changes in the mean level of interactions between neural networks, but also by changes in small scale fluctuations in such interactions. Strong, but rapidly fluctuating coupling between neural systems might provide a mechanism to optimize the balance between local differentiation and global integration of brain activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002


  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Alpha Rhythm
  • Cortical Synchronization
  • Electroencephalography
  • Entropy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term/physiology
  • Theta Rhythm
  • Visual Perception/physiology

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