Using a 143-channel whole-head magnetoencephalograph (MEG) we recorded the temporal changes of brain activity from 26 healthy young subjects (14 females) related to shallow perceptual and deep semantic word encoding. During subsequent recognition tests, the subjects had to recognize the previously encoded words which were interspersed with new words. The resulting mean memory performances across all subjects clearly mirrored the different levels of encoding. The grand averaged event-related fields (ERFs) associated with perceptual and semantic word encoding differed significantly between 200 and 550 ms after stimulus onset mainly over left superior temporal and left superior parietal sensors. Semantic encoding elicited higher brain activity than perceptual encoding. Source localization procedures revealed that neural populations of the left temporal and temporoparietal brain areas showed different activity strengths across the whole group of subjects depending on depth of word encoding. We suggest that the higher brain activity associated with deep encoding as compared to shallow encoding was due to the involvement of more neural systems during the processing of visually presented words. Deep encoding required more energy than shallow encoding but for all that led to a better memory performance.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.