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Psychol Sci. 2019 Apr;30(4):526-540. doi: 10.1177/0956797619830384. Epub 2019 Feb 28.

Dissecting the Neural Focus of Attention Reveals Distinct Processes for Spatial Attention and Object-Based Storage in Visual Working Memory.

Hakim N1,2, Adam KCS3,4, Gunseli E5, Awh E1,2,6, Vogel EK1,2,6.

Author information

1
1 Department of Psychology, The University of Chicago.
2
2 Institute for Mind and Biology, The University of Chicago.
3
3 Department of Psychology, University of California San Diego.
4
4 Institute for Neural Computation, University of California San Diego.
5
5 Department of Psychology, Columbia University.
6
6 Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology, and Human Behavior, The University of Chicago.

Abstract

Complex cognition relies on both on-line representations in working memory (WM), said to reside in the focus of attention, and passive off-line representations of related information. Here, we dissected the focus of attention by showing that distinct neural signals index the on-line storage of objects and sustained spatial attention. We recorded electroencephalogram (EEG) activity during two tasks that employed identical stimulus displays but varied the relative demands for object storage and spatial attention. We found distinct delay-period signatures for an attention task (which required only spatial attention) and a WM task (which invoked both spatial attention and object storage). Although both tasks required active maintenance of spatial information, only the WM task elicited robust contralateral delay activity that was sensitive to mnemonic load. Thus, we argue that the focus of attention is maintained via a collaboration between distinct processes for covert spatial orienting and object-based storage.

KEYWORDS:

attention; contralateral delay activity; electroencephalogram; open data; open materials; visual working memory

PMID:
30817220
PMCID:
PMC6472178
[Available on 2020-02-28]
DOI:
10.1177/0956797619830384

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