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Event-related brain potentials were used to study the retrieval of visual semantic information to concrete words, and to investigate possible structural overlap between visual object working memory and concreteness effects in word processing. Subjects performed an object working memory task that involved 5 s retention of simple 4-angled polygons (load 1), complex 10-angled polygons (load 2), and a no-load baseline condition. During the polygon retention interval subjects were presented with a lexical decision task to auditory presented concrete (imageable) and abstract (nonimageable) words, and pseudowords. ERP results are consistent with the use of object working memory for the visualisation of concrete words. Our data indicate a two-step processing model of visual semantics in which visual descriptive information of concrete words is first encoded in semantic memory (indicated by an anterior N400 and posterior occipital positivity), and is subsequently visualised via the network for object working memory (reflected by a left frontal positive slow wave and a bilateral occipital slow wave negativity). Results are discussed in the light of contemporary models of semantic memory.

Original publication




Journal article


Cognitive neuropsychology

Publication Date





364 - 386


University of Nijmegen and University of Groningen, The Netherlands.