Examining Working Memory and Long Term Memory Systems Interactions in the Context of Domain-Specific Expertise


Interactions between working memory and long term memory systems are still not well understood, as the systems have long been thought to be mostly separate. An interesting intersection of these memory systems is domain-specific expertise, whereby individuals are able to show supra-span memory for information related to the area of their expertise. The Hebb repetition effect, wherein individuals show greater working memory for repeated information than for new information, serves as an in-laboratory demonstration of domain-specific expertise, and therefore was selected for the study of working memory and long term memory interactions in the current work. In Experiment 1, a new task (SeVi) was designed and assessed for the study of domain-specific expertise learning, in order to examine interactions between working memory and long term memory. In Experiments 2 and 3, the SeVi task was used to test the limitations of the Hebb effect and to examine the relationships between the effect, long term memory (as assessed by awareness), and working memory capacity. Working memory capacity was found to be a significant predictor of the Hebb effect, and this relationship was mediated by long term memory involvement. In Experiment 4, the neural underpinnings of domain-specific expertise were studied using the SeVi task, with an expectation that the medial temporal lobe would support occurrence of the Hebb repetition effect and thus improved working memory for domain experts. Behavioral results were replicated, and neuroimaging findings suggested differential patterns of activity for long term working memory and working memory. However, the expected pattern of medial temporal lobe activity was not observed. Together, these results contribute significantly to questions about interactions between working memory and long term memory, and about the role of working memory capacity, pointing towards future research for educational and rehabilitation purposes.

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