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    Working memory is an essential cognitive function, which allows people to store items in their mind for brief periods of time (e.g. remembering directions). There is however a limit on the amount of information which can be stored in working memory. This limit, also known as working memory capacity, varies between people, decreases with healthy aging, and is impaired in a range of psychiatric and neurological disorders. The importance of working memory is underscored by its impact on everyday living, predicting educational attainment, employment status, and quality of life. However, it’s still unknown what exactly drives individual differences in working memory capacity.

    One possibility relates to the brain’s capacity to generate oscillations (aka brain waves). Oscillations reflect the simultaneous firing of large populations of brain cells, also called neurons, and are thought to represent the brain’s ‘code’ for storing and manipulating information. Animal studies have shown that oscillations are dependent on GABA, a brain chemical that acts like the brain’s conductor, orchestrating when and where neurons can fire. However, whether GABA and oscillations are related to human working memory ability remains unknown.


    Our study aims to explore this link between GABA, oscillations and working memory capacity using a new combination of brain imaging, brain stimulation and genetics. Specifically, we want to see whether an individual’s genetic code impacts their capacity to generate oscillations, and whether this impacts working memory ability. By understanding the link between molecular function, brain systems, and behaviour, we hope to develop new ways of improving working memory, with potential benefits for healthy aging and for those suffering from mental illnesses and neurological conditions.

    People Involved

    Nigel Rogasch Sian Virtue-Griffiths
  • Information for Participants

    If you are interested in participating in this study, please email:


    This study has been approved by the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee (MUHRC): Project Number: CF12/3072 - 2012001562