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Biol Psychol. 2007 May;75(2):185-93. Epub 2007 Feb 27.

Serial position effects in free memory recall--An ERP-study.

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Department of Psychology II, Neuropsychology Unit, Otto-von Guericke Universität Magdeburg, Germany.


Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) elicited by recalled and non-recalled words were recorded from 18 female subjects to investigate primacy and recency effects in free memory recall. The typical pattern of a serial position curve (SPC) was obtained with words presented at first and final positions in a list recalled better than words presented in the middle of a list. A marked positivity is seen in the ERPs for words on Primacy, but not on Recency positions at frontocentral electrodes. In contrast, ERP amplitudes on parietal electrodes resemble the SPC seen in behavioral data: P300 amplitude is largest for words on Primacy and Recency positions and attenuated on Plateau positions. Furthermore, subjects with a clear Primacy effect in behavioral data show a distinct frontal positive slow wave for Primacy words only, whereas subjects without a clear primacy effect show a frontal "difference due to subsequent memory" (DM) effect for Primacy and Plateau words. These results are discussed in the framework of working memory and distinctiveness.

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