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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Visual encoding differentially affects auditory event-related potentials during working memory retrieval.

  • Author(s): Golob, Edward J
  • Starr, Arnold
  • et al.

Previous working memory studies using auditory stimuli at both encoding and retrieval show amplitude decreases in event-related potentials (N100 and late positive wave, LPW) at retrieval as a function of memory load. This study tested if these effects are associated with phonological or semantic coding by presenting visual stimuli at encoding and auditory stimuli at retrieval. We hypothesized that event-related potentials associated with phonological but not semantic coding would be affected by modality differences at encoding and retrieval. Memory sets having one, three, or five visual digits were followed by auditory probes that subjects classified as present or absent from the set. Reaction time increased and LPW amplitudes decreased with increases in memory load, but there were no significant effects of memory load on N100 amplitude. Results suggest that with respect to brain activity that covaries with memory load, probe N100 amplitude is associated with phonological coding and LPW amplitude is associated with semantic coding.

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