, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 923-938

Brain potentials of recollection and familiarity


It is widely hypothesized that separate recollection and familiarity processes contribute to recognition memory. The present research measured event-related brain potentials (ERPs) from 128 head locations to identify patterns of brain activity related to recollection and familiarity. In two experiments, subjects performed a recognition memory task requiring discrimination between previously studied words, similar words that changed plurality between study and test, and new words (following Hintzman & Curran, 1994). The FN400 ERP component (300–500 msec) varied with the familiarity of words (new>studied = similar). The parietal component (400–800 msec) was associated with the recollection of plurality (studied > similar = new). Differences in the timing and spatial topography of the FN400 and parietal effects support the view that familiarity and recollection arise from distinct neurocognitive processes.

The present research was supported by a W. P. Jones Faculty Development Award from Case Western Reserve University, a Research Initiation Grant from CWRU, and a grant from the McDonnell-Pew Program in Cognitive Neuroscience.