Cognitive control allows to flexibly guide behaviour in a complex and ever-changing environment. It is supported by theta band (4-7Hz) neural oscillations that coordinate distant neural populations. However, little is known about the precise neural mechanisms permitting such flexible control. Most research has focused on theta amplitude, showing that it increases when control is needed, but a second essential aspect of theta oscillations, their peak frequency, has mostly been overlooked. Here, using computational modelling, behavioural and electrophysiological recordings, in three independent datasets, we show that theta oscillations adaptively shift towards optimal frequency depending on task demands. We provide evidence that theta frequency balances reliable set up of task representation and gating of task-relevant sensory and motor information and that this frequency shift predicts behavioural performance. Our study presents a mechanism supporting flexible control and calls for a re-evaluation of the mechanistic role of theta oscillations in adaptive behaviour.
- Senoussi, M., Verbeke, P., Desender, K., De Loof, E., Talsma, D., & Verguts, T. (in press). Theta oscillations shift towards optimal frequency for cognitive control. Nature Human Behaviour.