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Brain potentials in a memory-scanning task. III. Potentials to the items being memorized


Cerebral potentials evoked by items presented for memorization in a memory-scanning task were recorded from subjects ranging in age from 18 to 86 years old. Subjects were divided into younger (average age = 29 years) and older groups (average age = 66 years). Both verbal (digits) and non-verbal (musical notes) stimuli were used. Digits were presented in the auditory as well as the visual modality, and notes were presented acoustically. Potentials are described in terms of their scalp distribution, latency, and amplitude and are compared between the young and old subjects. Potentials evoked by the memorized items consisted of a positive (P50-90), negative (N100-150), positive (P185-225) sequence in the first 250 msec following stimulus onset. A sustained potential shift then followed whose amplitude differed with the items being memorized. The shift was positive in the parietal region being largest (5 microV) with verbal items presented visually and slightly smaller (3 microV) with non-verbal auditory stimuli (the notes); in contrast, verbal auditory digits were not associated with a detectable sustained parietal potential shift. In the frontal recordings there was a sustained potential shift accompanying all stimulus types, which was more negative in the young subjects. The amplitude of these sustained potential shifts differed as a function of the position of the item in the memorized set. These results provide electrophysiological evidence of brain activity during memorization that varies with the items being processed as well as differing between young and old subjects.

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