Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-10-2021


Rehearsal during working memory (WM) maintenance is assumed to facilitate retrieval. Less is known about how rehearsal modulates WM delay activity. In the present study, 44 participants completed a Sternberg Task with either intact novel scenes or phase-scrambled scenes, which had similar color and spatial frequency but lacked semantic content. During the rehearsal condition participants generated a descriptive label during encoding and covertly rehearsed during the delay period. During the suppression condition participants did not generate a label during encoding and suppressed (repeated “the”) during the delay period. This was easy in the former (novel scenes) but more difficult in the later condition (phase-scrambled scenes) where scenes lacked semantic content. Behavioral performance and EEG delay activity was analyzed as a function of maintenance strategy. Performance during WM revealed a benefit of rehearsal for phase-scrambled but not intact scenes. Examination of the absolute amplitude revealed three underlying sources of activity for rehearsal, including the left anterior temporal (ATL) and left and midline parietal regions. Increases in alpha and theta activity in ATL were correlated with improvement in performance on WM with rehearsal only when labeling was not automatic (e.g., phase-scrambled scenes), which may reflect differences in labeling and rehearsal (i.e., semantic associations vs. shallow labels). We conclude that rehearsal only benefits memory for visual stimuli that lack semantic information, and that this is correlated with changes in alpha and theta rhythms.



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