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Source memory for the color of pictures: Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) reveal sensory-specific retrieval-related activity


Address reprint requests to: Dr. Yael M. Cycowicz, Cognitive Electrophysiology Laboratory—Unit 6, New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032, USA. E-mail:


Remembering the context (i.e., source) in which an event occurred reveals episodic memory effects (EM) in the event-related brain potentials (ERP). In some verbal source memory experiments, a late prefrontal EM effect has been observed. In a different, pictorial source memory paradigm, a late, parieto-occipital EM effect was recorded. To assess whether these two EM effects stemmed from differences in task paradigms or from source-attribute differences, ERPs were recorded during source memory retrieval for object colors in two tasks. In the sequential task, old/new judgments were followed by source judgments (i.e., color). In the exclusion task, source memory judgments coincided with recognition judgments. For both tasks, late, parietao-occipital EM effects were observed. These findings suggest that it is not the nature of the task, but rather the perceptual characteristics of the source that lead to the presence of the parieto-occipital EM effect. The data further imply that memories for perceptual attributes such as color are stored in and retrieved from sensory-specific cortical areas.