Poster E72, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Characterizing EEG signatures of inattention that predict forgetting
David DiStefano1, Helen Schmidt1, Paige Hickey1, Elizabeth Race1; 1Tufts University
Periods of inattention (e.g., being off task or mind wandering) have been associated with reduced cortical analysis of the external environment (perceptual decoupling), evident in attenuated ERPs to stimuli that appear during off-task vs. on-task periods (Smallwood et al., 2008). The current study investigated whether such EEG markers of inattention are present for task-relevant and task-irrelevant stimuli and can predict long-term memory. EEG was recorded while participants performed an incidental face encoding task in the presence of background, task-irrelevant tones. Periods of inattention were defined by (i) a subjective measure in which participants self-reported their attentional state and (ii) an objective measure of response time variability (Esterman et al., 2012). Perceptual decoupling (operationalized as attenuated ERPs during subjective/objective periods of inattention) was observed only for faces, albeit at later points in time (>500ms) than typically observed. The timing and topography of this attention-related response largely overlapped with those of ERPs predicting subsequent memory for faces. We also identified distinct neural signatures that predicted subsequent memory but did not overlap with those reflecting attentional state. These signatures included an early frontal response to task-irrelevant tones that was predictive of subsequent memory for the faces that followed. These results indicate that fluctuations in attention are associated with neural activity patterns that are similar to those that predict subsequent memory, and suggest that the success of memory encoding can be predicted by neural responses to cross-modal, task-irrelevant stimuli.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic