Recent evidence suggests that temporal expectation is beneficial to memory formation. Rhythmic presentation of stimuli during encoding enhances subsequent recognition and is associated with distinct neural activity compared with when stimuli are presented in an arrhythmic manner. However, no prior study has examined how temporal expectation interacts with another important form of facilitation—spatial attention—to affect memory. This study systematically manipulated temporal expectation and spatial attention during encoding to examine their combined effect on behavioral recognition and associated ERPs. Participants performed eight experimental blocks consisting of an encoding phase and recognition test, with EEG recorded throughout. During encoding, pairs of objects and checkerboards were presented and participants were cued to attend to the left or right stream and detect targets as quickly as possible. In four blocks, stimulus presentation followed a rhythmic (constant, predictable) temporal structure, and in the other four blocks, stimulus onset was arrhythmic (random, unpredictable). An interaction between temporal expectation and spatial attention emerged, with greater recognition in the rhythmic than the arrhythmic condition for spatially attended items. Analysis of memory-specific ERP components uncovered effects of spatial attention. There were late positive component and FN400 old/new effects in the attended condition for both rhythmic and arrhythmic items, whereas in the unattended condition, there was an FN400 old/new effect and no late positive component effect. The study provides new evidence that memory improvement as a function of temporal expectation is dependent upon spatial attention.

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