Electrophysiological Evidence for a Sensory Recruitment Model of Somatosensory Working Memory

Tobias Katus* (Corresponding Author), Anna Grubert, Martin Eimer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Sensory recruitment models of working memory assume that information storage is mediated by the same cortical areas that are responsible for the perceptual processing of sensory signals. To test this assumption, we measured somatosensory event-related brain potentials (ERPs) during a tactile delayed match-to-sample task. Participants memorized a tactile sample set at one task-relevant hand to compare it with a subsequent test set on the same hand. During the retention period, a sustained negativity (tactile contralateral delay activity, tCDA) was elicited over primary somatosensory cortex contralateral to the relevant hand. The amplitude of this component increased with memory load and was sensitive to individual limitations in memory capacity, suggesting that the tCDA reflects the maintenance of tactile information in somatosensory working memory. The tCDA was preceded by a transient negativity (N2cc component) with a similar contralateral scalp distribution, which is likely to reflect selection of task-relevant tactile stimuli at the encoding stage. The temporal sequence of N2cc and tCDA components mirrors previous observations from ERP studies of working memory in vision. The finding that the sustained somatosensory delay period activity varies as a function of memory load supports a sensory recruitment model for spatial working memory in touch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4697-4703
Number of pages7
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number12
Early online date10 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

This work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG grant KA 3843/1-1), and was supported by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), United Kingdom.


  • Adult
  • Attention/physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term/physiology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Somatosensory Cortex/physiology
  • Touch Perception/physiology


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