Mental rotational ability is correlated with spatial but not verbal working memory performance and P300 amplitude in males
Christie, Gregory J.
Cook, Charles M.
Ward, Brian J.
Tata, Matthew S.
Sutherland, Robert J.
Saucier, Deborah M.
Public Library of Science
This study investigated how both sex and individual differences in a mental rotation test (MRT) influence performance on working memory (WM). To identify the neural substrate supporting these differences, brain electrical activity was measured using the event-related potential technique. No significant sex differences were observed in a test of verbal WM, however males were significantly faster than females to respond to probe stimuli in a test of spatial WM. This difference was no longer significant after controlling for differences in MRT score, suggesting that rotational ability mediates performance in the spatial memory task for both sexes. A posterior P300 was observed in both tasks as participants encoded information into memory, however the amplitude of the P300 correlated with RT in the spatial task but not in the verbal task. Individual differences in the MRT also correlated with RT and with the amplitude of the P300, but again only in the spatial task. After splitting the analysis by sex, partial correlations controlling for MRT revealed that for males, individual differences in rotational ability completely mediated the correlation between the P300 and RT in the spatial task. This mediating effect was not observed for the female participants. The results therefore suggest a relatively stronger association in males between innate mental rotational ability, spatial memory performance, and brain electrophysiological processes supporting spatial memory.
Sherpa Romeo green journal: open access
Working memory , Short-term memory , Spatial memory , Mental rotation test , Sex differences , Mental rotation ability , P300
Christie, G. J., Cook, C. M., Ward, B. J., Tata, M. S., Sutherland, J., Sutherland, R. J., & Saucier, D. M. (2013). Mental rotational ability is correlated with spatial but not verbal working memory performance and P300 amplitude in males. PLoS ONE, 8(2), e57390. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057390