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J Cogn Neurosci. 2001 Aug 15;13(6):766-85.

A cortical mechanism for binding in visual working memory.

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  • 1La Sapienza University of Rome.


Luck and Vogel (1997) showed that the storage capacity of visual working memory is about four objects and that this capacity does not depend on the number of features making up the objects. Thus, visual working memory seems to process integrated objects rather than individual features, just as verbal working memory handles higher-order "chunks" instead of individual features or letters. In this article, we present a model based on synchronization and desynchronization of reverberatory neural assemblies, which can parsimoniously account for both the limited capacity of visual working memory, and for the temporary binding of multiple assemblies into a single pattern. A critical capacity of about three to four independent patterns showed up in our simulations, consistent with the results of Luck and Vogel. The same desynchronizing mechanism optimizing phase segregation between assemblies coding for separate features or multifeature objects poses a limit to the number of oscillatory reverberations. We show how retention of multiple features as visual chunks (feature conjunctions or objects) in terms of synchronized reverberatory assemblies may be achieved with and without long-term memory guidance.

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