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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2001 Aug;12(1):11-8.

Electrophysiological correlates of memory encoding are task-dependent.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK.


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were used to investigate whether the neural correlates of successful episodic encoding differ according to the nature of the study task. At study, 16 subjects were cued to make either animacy or alphabetic decisions about visually presented words. A recognition memory test with confidence judgements followed after a delay of 30 min. For the animacy task, words that were subsequently confidently recognised were associated with a positive-going ERP modulation. By contrast, for the alphabetic task, confident recognition was associated with a negative-going ERP modulation. Both types of subsequent memory effects started shortly after word onset. These findings suggest that the neural correlates of memory encoding differ qualitatively, rather than quantitatively, according to the nature of the study task. Episodic encoding thus seems to be supported by multiple, task-specific, neural systems. The early onset of these memory effects suggests that episodic encoding can be facilitated by processes that start before the onset of the to-be-encoded item.

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