Sex differences: From mental rotation to object location memory, an ERP study


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Inproceedings: an article in a conference proceedings.
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Abstract (Abstract): shot summary in a article that contain essentials elements presented during a scientific conference, lecture or from a poster.
Sex differences: From mental rotation to object location memory, an ERP study
Title of the conference
15th World Congress of Psychophysiology of the International Organization of Psychophysiology (I.O.P.)
Devaud Cedric, Palix Julie, Brandner Catherine
Budapest, Hungary, September 1-4, 2010
Publication state
Issued date
International journal of psychophysiology
Publication type : Meeting Abstract
Sex differences in cognition have been largely investigated. The most consistent sex differences favoring females are observed in object location memory involving the left hemisphere whereas the most consistent sex differences favoring males are observed in tasks that require mental rotation involving the right hemisphere. Here we used a task involving these two abilities to see the impact of mental rotation on object location memory. To that end we used a combination of behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) electroencephalography (EEG) measures.A computer screen displayed a square frame of 4 pairs of images (a "teddy" bear, a shoe, an umbrella and a lamp) randomly arranged around a central fixation cross. After a 10-second interval for memorization, images disappeared and were replaced by a test frame with no image but a random pair of two locations marked in black. In addition, this test frame was randomly displayed either in the original orientation (0° rotation) or in the rotated one (90° clockwise - CW - or 90° counterclockwise - CCW). Preceding the test frame, an arrow indicating the presence or the absence of rotation of the frame was displayed on the screen. The task of the participants (15 females and 15 males) was to determine if two marked locations corresponded or not to a pair of identical images. Each response was followed by feedback.Findings showed no significant sex differences in the performance of the original orientation. In comparison with this position, the rotation of the frame produced an equal decrease of male and female performance. In addition, this decrease was significantly higher when the rotation of the frame was in a CCW direction. We further assessed the ERP when the arrow indicated the direction of rotation as stimulus-onset, during four time windows representing major components C1, P1, N1 and N2. Although no sex differences were observed in performance, brain activities differed according to sex. Enhanced amplitudes were found for the CCW compared to CW rotation over the right posterior areas for the P1, N1 and N2 components for men as well as for women. Major topographical differences related to sex were measured for the CW rotation condition as marked lateralized amplitude: left-hemisphere amplitude larger than right one was measured during P1 time range for men. These similar patterns prolonged from P1 to N1 for women. Early distinctions were found in interaction with sex between CCW and CW waveform amplitudes, expressing over anterior electrode sites during C1 time range (0-50 ms post-stimulus).In conclusion (i) women do not outperform men in object location memory in this study (absence of rotation condition); (ii) mental rotation, in particular the direction of rotation, influences performance on object location memory; (iii) CCW rotation is associated with activity in the right parietal hemisphere whereas the CW rotation involves the left parietal hemisphere; (iv) this last effect is less pronounced in males, which could explain why greater involvement of right parietal areas in men and of bilateral posterior areas in women is generally reported in mental rotation tasks; and (v) the early distinctions between both directions of rotation located over anterior sites could be related to sex differences in their respective involvement of control mechanisms.
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19/01/2012 10:20
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20/08/2019 14:27
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