Optimal working memory (WM) functioning depends on a control mechanism that balances between maintenance and updating by closing or opening the gate to WM, respectively. Here, we examined the neural oscillation correlates of WM updating and of the control processes involved in gating. The reference-back paradigm was employed to manipulate gate opening, gate closing, and updating independently and examine how the control functions involved in these processes are mapped to oscillatory EEG activity. The results established that different oscillatory patterns were associated with the control process related to gate opening than in gate closing. During the time of gate closing, a relative increase in theta power was observed over midfrontal electrodes. This theta response is a known EEG signature of cognitive control that is proposed here to reflect reactive conflict resolution, achieved by closing the gate when facing irrelevant information. On the other hand, proactive gate opening in preparation for relevant information was associated with an increase in relative delta power over parietal-occipital electrodes. Finally, WM updating was associated with relative increase in delta power over midfrontal electrodes, suggesting a functional role of delta oscillations in WM updating.

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