Magnetoencephalographic evidence of the interhemispheric asymmetry in echoic memory lifetime and its dependence on handedness and gender

Andreas A. Ioannides, Mihai Popescu, Asuka Otsuka, Anastasios Bezerianos, Lichan Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The echoic memory trace (EMT) refers to neuronal activity associated with the short-term retention of stimulus-related information, especially within the primary and association auditory cortex. Using magnetoencephalography it is possible to determine quantitatively the lifetime of the EMT. Previous studies assumed that each new stimulus drives the EMT to its full strength, which then passively decays. In this study we show the limitations of this assumption using trains of auditory stimuli designed specifically for computing the EMT lifetime and its contextual sensitivity. We estimated a time-dependent EMT using a data-driven approach, which allows contributions from a relatively wide area around the auditory cortex in our quantitative measures. We identified: (1) internally generated cortical activations during the silent period between stimuli well separated in time from each other, which had influence on the morphology of the neuromagnetic response to the next external stimulus; and (2) EMTs with different lifetimes that modulate the amplitude of the evoked responses at different latencies, suggesting the existence of multiple neural delay lines. Long EMT lifetimes were observed on the descending part of the M100 complex, which showed handedness and gender-dependent interhemispheric asymmetry. Specifically, all subjects showed longer EMT lifetimes on the left hemisphere, except left-handed males. Distributed source analysis of the data for one left- and one right-handed male subject identified a secondary generator in the right-handed subject, which was located posterior to the early primary generator and dominated the auditory response at late latencies, where EMT lifetime asymmetry was high. The identified multiple neural delay lines and their laterality may provide a link between macroneuronal activity and left hemisphere specialization for processing linguistic material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1061-1075
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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