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Nature. 2004 Apr 15;428(6984):751-4.

Capacity limit of visual short-term memory in human posterior parietal cortex.

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Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, 530 Wilson Hall, Nashville, Tennessee 37203, USA.


At any instant, our visual system allows us to perceive a rich and detailed visual world. Yet our internal, explicit representation of this visual world is extremely sparse: we can only hold in mind a minute fraction of the visual scene. These mental representations are stored in visual short-term memory (VSTM). Even though VSTM is essential for the execution of a wide array of perceptual and cognitive functions, and is supported by an extensive network of brain regions, its storage capacity is severely limited. With the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show here that this capacity limit is neurally reflected in one node of this network: activity in the posterior parietal cortex is tightly correlated with the limited amount of scene information that can be stored in VSTM. These results suggest that the posterior parietal cortex is a key neural locus of our impoverished mental representation of the visual world.

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