The impact of perceptual changes to studied items on ERP correlates of familiarity and recollection is subject to hemispheric asymmetries

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It is still unclear which role the right hemisphere (RH) preference for perceptually specific and the left hemisphere (LH) bias towards abstract memory representations play at the level of episodic memory retrieval. When stimulus characteristics hampered the retrieval of abstract memory representations, these hemispheric asymmetries have previously only modulated event-related potential (ERP) correlates of recollection (late positive complex, LPC), but not of familiarity (FN400). In the present experiment, we used stimuli which facilitated the retrieval of abstract memory representations. With the divided visual field technique, new items, identical repetitions and color-modified versions of incidentally studied object pictures were presented in either the right (RVF) or the left visual field (LVF). Participants performed a memory inclusion task, in which they had to categorize both identically repeated and color-modified study items as ‘old’. Only ERP, but not behavioral data showed hemispheric asymmetries: Compared to identical repetitions, FN400 and LPC old/new effects for color-modified items were equivalent with RVF/LH presentation, but reduced with LVF/RH presentation. By promoting the use of abstract stimulus information for memory retrieval, we were thus able to show that hemispheric asymmetries in accessing abstract or specific memory representations can modulate ERP correlates of familiarity as well as recollection processes.HighlightsWe examined color-specific episodic memory in a divided visual field paradigm.Our task design promoted the use of abstract stimulus information for retrieval.FN400 and LPC, but not behavioral old/new effects showed hemispheric asymmetries.Color changes from study to test did not affect ERP effects in the left hemisphere.Color changes reduced FN400 and LPC old/new effects in the right hemisphere.

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