Brain potentials distinguish new and studied objects during working memory

Chunyan Guo, Adam L. Lawson, Qin Zhang, Yang Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We investigated brain responses to matching versus nonmatching objects in working memory (WM) with a modified delayed match-to-sample task using event-related potentials (ERPs). In addition, ERP correlates of new items (new matches/new nonmatches) and previously studied items (studied matches/studied nonmatches) were examined in the WM task. Half of the common visual objects were initially studied until 95% accuracy was attained and half were new. Each memory trial began with the presentation of a sample object followed by nine test objects. Participants indicated whether each test item was the same as the object held in mind (i.e., match) or a nonmatch. Compared to studied matches, new matches evoked activity that was 50 ms earlier and largest at frontal sites. In contrast, P3 activity associated with studied nonmatches was larger than for new nonmatches at mostly posterior sites, which parallels previously reported old-new ERP effects. The ERP source analysis further confirms that the cortical mechanisms underlying matching objects and rejecting irrelevant objects during the task are both temporally and spatially distinct. Moreover, our current findings suggest that prior learning affects brain responses to matching visual items during a WM task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-452
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Common objects
  • Delayed match-to-sample
  • ERPs
  • Matching
  • Stimulus evaluation
  • Visual memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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