Retrieval and monitoring processes during visual working memory : an ERP study of the benefit of visual semantics

Orme, Elizabeth and Brown, Louise A. and Riby, Leigh M. (2017) Retrieval and monitoring processes during visual working memory : an ERP study of the benefit of visual semantics. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. pp. 1-10. 1080. ISSN 1664-1078 (

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In this study we examined electrophysiological indices of episodic remembering whilst participants recalled novel shapes, with and without semantic content, within a visual working memory paradigm. The components of interest were the parietal episodic (PE; 400-800ms) and late posterior negativity (LPN; 500-900ms), as these have previously been identified as reliable markers of recollection and post retrieval monitoring, respectively. Fifteen young adults completed a visual matrix patterns task, assessing memory for low and high semantic visual representations. Matrices with either low semantic or high semantic content (containing familiar visual forms) were briefly presented to participants for study (1500ms), followed by a retention interval (6000ms) and finally a same/different recognition phase. The event-related potentials of interest were tracked from the onset of the recognition test stimuli. Analyses revealed equivalent amplitude for the earlier PE effect for the processing of both low and high semantic stimulus types. However, the LPN was more negative-going for the processing of the low semantic stimuli. These data are discussed in terms of relatively ‘pure’ retrieval of high semantic items, where support can readily be recruited from semantic memory. However, for the low semantic items additional executive resources, as indexed by the LPN, are recruited when memory monitoring and uncertainty exist in order to recall previously studied items more effectively.