University of Oulu

Ren, M., Xu, J., Li, Y., Wang, M., Georgiev, G., Shen, L., Zhao, J., Cao, Z., Zhang, S., Wang, W., Xu, S., Zhou, Z., Chen, S., Chen, X., Shi, X., Tang, X., & Shan, C. (2023). Neural signatures for the n-back task with different loads: An event-related potential study. Biological Psychology, 177, 108485.

Neural signatures for the n-back task with different loads : an event-related potential study

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Author: Ren, Meng1,2; Xu, Jingjing3; Li, Yuanli4;
Organizations: 1Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 200437, China
2School of Rehabilitation Science, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China
3Athletic rehabilitation Teaching and Research Office, School of Exercise and Health, Guangzhou Sport University, Guangzhou 510599, China
4Engineering Research Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine Intelligent Rehabilitation, Ministry of Education, Shanghai 201203, China
5Center for Ubiquitous Computing, University of Oulu, 90570, Finland
6Language Cognition Laboratory, School of Foreign Studies, Anhui Polytechnic University, Wuhu, 241000, China
7Guangzhou Xuguan Clinic of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou 511488, China
8Shanghai No.3 Rehabilitation Hospital, Shanghai 200436, China
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: embargoed
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2023
Publish Date: 2024-01-05


The n-back task is widely used in working memory (WM) research. However, it remains unclear how the electrophysiological correlates of WM processes, the P2, N2, P300, and negative slow wave (NSW), are affected by differences in load. Specifically, while previous work has examined the P300, less attention has been paid to the other components assessing the load of the n-back paradigm. The present study aims to investigate whether other sub-processes in WM (such as inhibitory control) are as sensitive to n-back load changes as the update process by observing changes in the above event-related potential (ERP) components. The results showed poorer behavioral performance with increasing WM load. Greater NSW and smaller P300 amplitudes were elicited by n-back task with a higher load compared to that with lower load. In contrast, there was no significant effect of the n-back load on the amplitudes of P2 and N2. These findings suggest that the updating process and the maintenance process are sensitive to the n-back load change. Therefore, changes in the updating and maintenance processes should be considered when using the n-back task to manipulate the WM load in experiments. The present study may contribute to the understanding of the complexity of WM loads. Additionally, a theoretical basis for follow-up research to explore ways of improving WM performance with high load is provided.

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Series: Biological psychology
ISSN: 0301-0511
ISSN-E: 1873-6246
ISSN-L: 0301-0511
Volume: 177
Article number: 108485
DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2023.108485
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: This work was supported by National Key R&D Program of China [Grant No.: 2018YFC2001600, 2018YFC2001604]; the National Natural Science Fund [Grant No.: 81874035]; Shanghai Leading Talents Project [Grant No.: 010]; Program of Shanghai Academic Research Leader [Grant No.: 19XD1403600]. These funding providers had no role in the study design, collection, management, analysis, interpretation of data, writing of the report, or decision to submit the report for publication.
Copyright information: © 2023. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license