Prestimulus theta activity predicts correct source memory retrieval

Richard J. Addante, Andrew J. Watrous, Andrew P. Yonelinas, Arne D. Ekstrom, Charan Ranganath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Recent evidence indicates that the processing of a stimulus can be influenced by preceding patterns of brain activity. Here we examine whether prestimulus oscillatory brain activity can influence the ability to retrieve episodic memories. Neural activity in the theta-frequency band (4-8 Hz) was enhanced before presentation of test items which elicited accurate recollection of contextual details of the prior study episode ("source retrieval"), relative to trials for which item recognition was successful but source retrieval failed. Poststimulus theta activity was also related to source retrieval, and the magnitude of poststimulus theta was predicted by the magnitude of the prestimulus theta effects. The results suggest that ongoing neural processes occurring before stimulus onset might play a critical role in readying the brain for successful memory retrieval.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10702-10707
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 28 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • EEG
  • Oscillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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