In this study we quantify for the first time electrophysiological components associated with incorporating long-term semantic knowledge with visuo-spatial information using two variants of a traditional matrix patterns task. Results indicated that the matrix task with greater semantic content was associated with enhanced accuracy and RTs in a change-detection paradigm; this was also associated with increased P300 and N400 components as well as a sustained negative slow wave (NSW). In contrast, processing of the low semantic stimuli was associated with an increased N200 and a reduction in the P300. These findings suggest that semantic content can aid in reducing early visual processing of information and subsequent memory load by unitizing complex patterns into familiar forms. The N400/NSW may be associated with the requirements for maintaining visuo-spatial information about semantic forms such as orientation and relative location. Evidence for individual differences in semantic elaboration strategies used by participants is also discussed.