Available processing resources influence encoding-related brain activity before an event

Article English OPEN
Galli, Giulia ; Gebert, A. Dorothea ; Otten, Leun J. (2013)
  • Publisher: Elsevier BV
  • Journal: Cortex, volume 49, issue 8, pages 2,239-2,248 (issn: 0010-9452, eissn: 1973-8102)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2012.10.011, pmc: PMC3764337
  • Subject: Research Report | Divided attention | Prestimulus brain activity | Processing resources | Clinical Neurology | Encoding | Long-term memory | Neurology

Effective cognitive functioning not only relies on brain activity elicited by an event, but also on activity that precedes it. This has been demonstrated in a number of cognitive domains, including memory. Here, we show that brain activity that precedes the effective encoding of a word into long-term memory depends on the availability of sufficient processing resources. We recorded electrical brain activity from the scalps of healthy adult men and women while they memorized intermixed visual and auditory words for later recall. Each word was preceded by a cue that indicated the modality of the upcoming word. The degree to which processing resources were available before word onset was manipulated by asking participants to make an easy or difficult perceptual discrimination on the cue. Brain activity before word onset predicted later recall of the word, but only in the easy discrimination condition. These findings indicate that anticipatory influences on long-term memory are limited in capacity and sensitive to the degree to which attention is divided between tasks. Prestimulus activity that affects later encoding can only be engaged when the necessary cognitive resources can be allocated to the encoding process.
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