Midfrontal theta phase coordinates behaviorally relevant brain computations during cognitive control
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Key wordsCognitive control; Oscillations; eeg
Neural oscillations are thought to provide a cyclic time frame for orchestrating brain computations. Following this assumption, midfrontal theta oscillations have recently been proposed to temporally organize brain computations during conflict processing. Using a multivariate analysis approach, we show that brain-behavior relationships during conflict tasks are modulated according to the phase of ongoing endogenous midfrontal theta oscillations recorded by scalp EEG. We found reproducible results in two independent datasets, using two different conflict tasks: brain-behavior relationships (correlation between reaction time and theta power) were theta phase-dependent in a subject-specific manner, and these “behaviorally optimal” theta phases were also associated with fronto-parietal cross-frequency dynamics emerging as theta phase-locked beta power bursts. These effects were present regardless of the strength of conflict. Thus, these results provide empirical evidence that midfrontal theta oscillations are involved in cyclically orchestrating brain computations likely related to response execution during the tasks rather than purely related to conflict processing. More generally, this study supports the hypothesis that phase-based computation is an important mechanism giving rise to cognitive processing.