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Identifying the ERP correlate of a recognition memory search attempt.

journal contribution
posted on 01.08.2005 by Rachel A. Diana, Kaia L. Vilberg, Lynne M. Reder

Previous recognition memory studies have looked for differences in brain activity during recollection- and familiarity-based responding. Although an ERP component correlated with recollection success has been reported, no analogous component related to search initiation has been found. We argue that such a component has not been discovered because studies have compared trials in which participants have made a search attempt and failed (such as Know responses) with those in which the search attempt is successful (such as Remember responses). In the current study, we compared a task that required judgments of lifetime familiarity (differentiating famous from nonfamous names) with one that required judgments of episodic information (deciding whether a name was seen previously in the experiment). By comparing a task on which familiarity judgments were made with no search attempt to a second task in which a search attempt was likely to occur, we identified a component that may reflect the initiation of a memory search. This effect, maximal between 190 and 235 ms, is correlated with Old judgments in the episodic task. Previous ERP findings (e.g., FN400, parietal old/new effect) were also replicated in the present study.