Sensory ERPs predict differences in working memory span and fluid intelligence

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The way our brain reacts to sensory stimulation may provide important clues about higher-level cognitive function and its operation. Here we show that short-latency (< 200 ms) sensory cortical responses elicited by visual and auditory stimuli differ dramatically between subjects with high and low working-memory span, as well as between subjects scoring high and low on a fluid intelligence test. Our findings also suggest that this link between sensory responses and complex cognitive tasks is modality specific (visual sensory measures correlate with visuo-spatial tasks whereas auditory sensory measures correlate with verbal tasks). We interpret these findings as indicating that people's effectiveness in controlling attention and gating sensory information is a critical determinant of individual differences in complex cognitive abilities.

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