Alpha-frequency band oscillations have been shown to be one of the most prominent aspects of neuronal ongoing oscillatory activity, as reflected by electroencephalography (EEG) recordings. First thought to reflect an idling state, a recent framework indicates that alpha power reflects cortical inhibition. In the present study, the role of oscillations in the upper alpha-band (12 Hz) was investigated during a change-detection test of short-term visual memory. If alpha oscillations arise from a purely inhibitory process, higher alpha power before sample stimulus presentation would be expected to correlate with poorer performance. Instead, participants with faster reaction-times showed stronger alpha power before the sample stimulus in frontal and posterior regions. Additionally, faster participants showed stronger alpha desynchronization after the stimulus in a group of right frontal and left posterior electrodes. The same pattern of electrodes showed stronger alpha with higher working-memory load, so that when more items were processed, alpha power desynchronized faster after the stimulus. During memory maintenance, alpha power was greater when more items were held in memory, likely due to a faster resynchronization. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that the level of suppression of alpha power by stimulus presentation is an important factor for successfully encoding visual stimuli. The data are also consistent with a role for alpha as actively participating in attentional processes. © 2012 Nenert, Viswanathan, Dubuc and Visscher.