Brain oscillatory subsequent memory effects differ in power and long-range synchronization between semantic and survival processing

Neuroimage. 2013 Oct 1:79:361-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.04.121. Epub 2013 May 9.


Memory crucially depends on the way information is processed during encoding. Differences in processes during encoding not only lead to differences in memory performance but also rely on different brain networks. Although these assumptions are corroborated by several previous fMRI and ERP studies, little is known about how brain oscillations dissociate between different memory encoding tasks. The present study therefore compared encoding related brain oscillatory activity elicited by two very efficient encoding tasks: a typical deep semantic item feature judgment task and a more elaborative survival encoding task. Subjects were asked to judge words either for survival relevance or for animacy, as indicated by a cue presented prior to the item. This allowed dissociating pre-item activity from item-related activity for both tasks. Replicating prior studies, survival processing led to higher recognition performance than semantic processing. Successful encoding in the semantic condition was reflected by a strong decrease in alpha and beta power, whereas successful encoding in the survival condition was related to increased alpha and beta long-range phase synchrony. Moreover, a pre-item subsequent memory effect in theta power was found which did not vary with encoding condition. These results show that measures of local synchrony (power) and global long range-synchrony (phase synchronization) dissociate between memory encoding processes. Whereas semantic encoding was reflected in decreases in local synchrony, increases in global long range synchrony were related to elaborative survival encoding, presumably reflecting the involvement of a more widespread cortical network in this task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Semantics*
  • Young Adult