Mecklinger, Axel; Kamp, Siri-Maria

Observing memory encoding while it unfolds: Functional interpretation and current debates regarding ERP subsequent memory effects

Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 153, 2023.

Our ability to remember the past depends on neural processes set in train in the moment an event is experienced. These processes can be studied by segregating brain activity according to whether an event is later remembered or forgotten. The present review integrates a large number of studies examining this differential brain activity, labeled subsequent memory effect (SME), with the ERP technique, into a functional organization and discusses routes for further research. Based on the reviewed literature, we suggest that memory encoding is implemented by multiple processes, typically reflected in three functionally different subcomponents of the ERP SME elicited by study stimuli, which presumably interact with preparatory SME activity preceding the to be encoded event. We argue that ERPs are a valuable method in the SME paradigm because they have a sufficiently high temporal resolution to disclose the subcomponents of encoding-related brain activity. Implications of the proposed functional organization for future studies using the SME procedure in basic and applied settings will be discussed.