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Enhanced gamma oscillatory activity (30–80 Hz) accompanies the successful formation and retrieval of episodic memories. While this co-occurrence is well documented, the mechanistic contributions of gamma oscillatory activity to episodic memory remain unclear. Here, we review how gamma oscillatory activity may facilitate spike timing-dependent plasticity, neural communication, and sequence encoding/retrieval, thereby ensuring the successful formation and/or retrieval of an episodic memory. Based on the evidence reviewed, we propose that multiple, distinct forms of gamma oscillation can be found within the canonical gamma band, each of which has a complementary role in the neural processes listed above. Further exploration of these theories using causal manipulations may be key to elucidating the relevance of gamma oscillatory activity to episodic memory.
The thalamus is much more than a simple sensory relay. High-order thalamic nuclei, such as the mediodorsal thalamus, exert a profound influence over animal cognition. However, given the difficulty of directly recording from the thalamus in humans, next-to-nothing is known about thalamic and thalamocortical contributions to human cognition. To address this, we analysed simultaneously-recorded thalamic iEEG and whole-head MEG in six patients (four female, two male; plus MEG recordings from twelve healthy controls) as they completed a visual detection task. We observed that the phase of both ongoing mediodorsal thalamic and prefrontal low-frequency activity was predictive of perceptual performance. Critically however, mediodorsal thalamic activity mediated prefrontal contributions to perceptual performance. These results suggest that it is thalamocortical interactions, rather than cortical activity alone, that is predictive of upcoming perceptual performance and, more generally, highlights the importance of accounting for the thalamus when theorising about cortical contributions to human cognition.