Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
To build a general knowledge base, it is imperative that individuals acquire, integrate, and further extend knowledge across experiences. For instance, in one episode an individual may learn that George Washington was the first president. In a separate episode they may then learn that Washington was the commander of the Continental Army. Integration of the information in memory may then support self-derivation of the new knowledge that the leader of the Continental Army was also the first president. Despite a considerable amount of fMRI research aimed at further elucidating the neuroanatomical regions supporting this ability, a consensus has yet to be reached with regards to the precise neurocognitive processes involved. In the present research, we capitalized on the high temporal resolution of event-related potentials (ERPs) to inform the time course of processes elicited during successful integration and further extension of new factual knowledge. Adults read novel, related stem facts and were tested for self-derivation of novel integration facts while ERPs were recorded. Consistent with current theoretical models, memory integration was first triggered by novelty detection within 400 msec of experience of a second, related stem fact. Two additional temporally staged encoding processes were then observed interpreted to reflect (1) explicit meaning comprehension and (2) representation of the integrated relation in memory. During the test for self-derivation, a single ERP was elicited, which presumably reflected retrieval and/or recombination of previously integrated knowledge. Together, the present research provides important insight into the time course of neurocognitive processing associated with the formation of a knowledge base.