ERPs and oscillations during encoding predict retrieval of digit memory in superior mnemonists

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Abstract

Previous studies have consistently demonstrated that superior mnemonists (SMs) outperform normal individuals in domain-specific memory tasks. However, the neural correlates of memory-related processes remain unclear. In the current EEG study, SMs and control participants performed a digit memory task during which their brain activity was recorded. Chinese SMs used a digit-image mnemonic for encoding digits, in which they associated 2-digit groups with images immediately after the presentation of each even-position digit in sequences. Behaviorally, SMs’ memory of digit sequences was better than the controls’. During encoding in the study phase, SMs showed an increased right central P2 (150–250 ms post onset) and a larger right posterior high-alpha (10–14 Hz, 500–1720 ms) oscillation on digits at even-positions compared with digits at odd-positions. Both P2 and high-alpha oscillations in the study phase co-varied with performance in the recall phase, but only in SMs, indicating that neural dynamics during encoding could predict successful retrieval of digit memory in SMs. Our findings suggest that representation of a digit sequence in SMs using mnemonics may recruit both the early-stage attention allocation process and the sustained information preservation process. This study provides evidence for the role of dynamic and efficient neural encoding processes in mnemonists.

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