by Kevin Lai, Hsiao-Ching She, Sheng-Chang Chen, Wen-Chi Chou, Li-Yu Huang, Tzyy-Ping Jung, Klaus Gramann
Previous research into working memory has focused on activations in different brain areas accompanying either different presentation modalities (verbal vs. non-verbal) or concreteness (abstract vs. concrete) of non-science concepts. Less research has been conducted investigating how scientific concepts are learned and further processed in working memory. To bridge this gap, the present study investigated human brain dynamics associated with encoding of physics concepts, taking both presentation modality and concreteness into account. Results of this study revealed greater theta and low-beta synchronization in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during encoding of concrete pictures as compared to the encoding of both high and low imageable words. In visual brain areas, greater theta activity accompanying stimulus onsets was observed for words as compared to pictures while stronger alpha suppression was observed in responses to pictures as compared to words. In general, the EEG oscillation patterns for encoding words of different levels of abstractness were comparable but differed significantly from encoding of pictures. These results provide insights into the effects of modality of presentation on human encoding of scientific concepts and thus might help in developing new ways to better teach scientific concepts in class.