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Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 Feb;71(2):97-102. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.06.009. Epub 2008 Jul 5.

Reversed old/new effect for intentionally forgotten words: an ERP study of directed forgetting.

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Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Department of Neurophysiology, Laboratory of Psychophysiology, 3 Pasteur Street, 02-093 Warsaw, Poland.


The present study investigated, using the item-method directed forgetting paradigm, whether successful intentional forgetting is reflected in brain activity, as measured by ERP. We sorted the EEG data into 4 experimental conditions based on the combination of memory instruction and behavioral outcome: TBF_F (to-be-forgotten and forgotten), TBF_R (to-be-forgotten but remembered), TBR_R (to-be-remembered and remembered, i.e. hits) and correct rejections (CR). TBR_R trials elicited a typical old/new effect (approximately 500-750 ms poststimulus) over central and parietal regions. The TBF_F condition, however, elicited ERP that were more negative-going than ERP for CR (the reversed old/new effect). The latter may reflect the very effective inhibition of encoding and retrieval processes. This indicates that intentional processes leading to successful forgetting significantly influence brain activity.

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