, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 80-93
Date: 08 Dec 2012

Vocal emotions influence verbal memory: Neural correlates and interindividual differences


Past research has identified an event-related potential (ERP) marker for vocal emotional encoding and has highlighted vocal-processing differences between male and female listeners. We further investigated this ERP vocal-encoding effect in order to determine whether it predicts voice-related changes in listeners’ memory for verbal interaction content. Additionally, we explored whether sex differences in vocal processing would affect such changes. To these ends, we presented participants with a series of neutral words spoken with a neutral or a sad voice. The participants subsequently encountered these words, together with new words, in a visual word recognition test. In addition to making old/new decisions, the participants rated the emotional valence of each test word. During the encoding of spoken words, sad voices elicited a greater P200 in the ERP than did neutral voices. While the P200 effect was unrelated to a subsequent recognition advantage for test words previously heard with a neutral as compared to a sad voice, the P200 did significantly predict differences between these words in a concurrent late positive ERP component. Additionally, the P200 effect predicted voice-related changes in word valence. As compared to words studied with a neutral voice, words studied with a sad voice were rated more negatively, and this rating difference was larger, the larger the P200 encoding effect was. While some of these results were comparable in male and female participants, the latter group showed a stronger P200 encoding effect and qualitatively different ERP responses during word retrieval. Estrogen measurements suggested the possibility that these sex differences have a genetic basis.