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Neuropsychologia. 2011 May;49(6):1410-24. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.12.022. Epub 2010 Dec 22.

Influence of early attentional modulation on working memory.

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Department of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry, W. M. Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco, USA.


It is now established that attention influences working memory (WM) at multiple processing stages. This liaison between attention and WM poses several interesting empirical questions. Notably, does attention impact WM via its influences on early perceptual processing? If so, what are the critical factors at play in this attention-perception-WM interaction. I review recent data from our laboratory utilizing a variety of techniques (electroencephalography (EEG), functional MRI (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)), stimuli (features and complex objects), novel experimental paradigms, and research populations (younger and older adults), which converge to support the conclusion that top-down modulation of visual cortical activity at early perceptual processing stages (100-200 ms after stimulus onset) impacts subsequent WM performance. Factors that affect attentional control at this stage include cognitive load, task practice, perceptual training, and aging. These developments highlight the complex and dynamic relationships among perception, attention, and memory.

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