Spreading activation in nonverbal memory networks


Theories of spreading activation primarily involve semantic memory networks. However, the existence of separate verbal and visuospatial memory networks suggests that spreading activation may also occur in visuospatial memory networks. The purpose of the present investigation was to explore this possibility. Specifically, this study sought to create and describe the design frequency corpus and to determine whether this measure of visuospatial spreading activation was related to right hemisphere functioning and spreading activation in verbal memory networks. We used word frequencies taken from the Controlled Oral Word Association Test and design frequencies taken from the Ruff Figural Fluency Test as measures of verbal and visuospatial spreading activation, respectively. Average word and design frequencies were then correlated with measures of left and right cerebral functioning. The results indicated that a significant relationship exists between performance on a test of right posterior functioning (Block Design) and design frequency. A significant negative relationship also exists between spreading activation in semantic memory networks and design frequency. Based on our findings, the hypotheses were supported. Further research will need to be conducted to examine whether spreading activation exists in visuospatial memory networks as well as the parameters that might modulate this spreading activation, such as the influence of neurotransmitters.