Left-frontal brain potentials index conceptual implicit memory for words initially viewed subliminally

Jason C.W. Chen*, Wen Li, Ming Lui, Ken A. Paller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Neural correlates of explicit and implicit memory tend to co-occur and are therefore difficult to measure independently, posing problems for understanding the unique nature of different types of memory processing. To circumvent this problem, we developed an experimental design wherein subjects acquired information from words presented in a subliminal manner, such that conscious remembering was minimized. Cross-modal word repetition was used so that perceptual implicit memory would also be limited. Healthy human subjects viewed subliminal words six times each and about 2 min later heard the same words interspersed with new words in a category-verification test. Electrophysiological correlates of word repetition included negative brain potentials over left-frontal locations beginning approximately 500 ms after word onset. Behavioral responses were slower for repeated words than for new words. Differential processing of word meaning in the absence of explicit memory was most likely responsible for differential electrical and behavioral responses to old versus new words. Moreover, these effects were distinct from neural correlates of explicit memory observed in prior experiments, and were observed here in two separate experiments, thus providing a foundation for further investigations of relationships and interactions between different types of memory engaged when words repeat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-147
Number of pages13
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Aug 18 2009


  • Conceptual implicit memory
  • Event-related potential
  • Explicit memory
  • Implicit memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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