Behavioral research has led to conflicting views regarding the relationship between working memory (WM) maintenance and long-term memory (LTM) formation. We used slow event-related brain potentials to investigate the degree to which neural activity during WM maintenance is associated with successful LTM formation. Participants performed a WM task with objects and letter strings, followed by a surprise LTM test. Slow potentials were found to be more negative over the parietal and occipital cortex for objects and over the left frontal cortex for letter strings during WM maintenance. Within each category, they were enhanced for items that were subsequently successfully remembered. These effects were topographically distinct, with maximum effects at those electrodes that showed the maximum negativity during WM maintenance in general. Together, these results are strongly consistent with the ideas that WM maintenance contributes to LTM formation and that this may occur through strengthening of stimulus-specific cortical memory traces.
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