Attentional and anatomical considerations for the representation of simple stimuli in visual short-term memory: evidence from human electrophysiology

Rosalie Perron, Christine Lefebvre, Nicolas Robitaille, Benoit Brisson, Frédéric Gosselin, Martin Arguin, Pierre Jolicoeur
Psychological Research 2009, 73 (2): 222-32
Observers encoded the spatial arrangement of two or three horizontal line segments relative to a square frame presented for 150 ms either in left or right visual field and either above or below the horizontal midline. The target pattern was selected on the basis of colour (red vs. green) from an equivalent distractor pattern in the opposite left-right visual hemifield. After a retention interval of 450 or 650 ms a test pattern was presented at fixation. The task was to decide whether the test was the same as the encoded pattern or different. Selection of the to-be-memorized pattern produced an N2pc response that was not influenced by the number of line segments nor by the length of the retention interval, but that was smaller in amplitude for patterns presented in the upper visual field compared with patterns presented in the lower visual field. A sustained posterior contralateral negativity (SPCN) followed the N2pc. The SPCN was larger for patterns with three line segments than for two, was larger for patterns encoded from lower visual field than from upper visual field, and returned to baseline sooner for the shorter retention interval than for the longer interval. These results, and others, provide an interesting and complex pattern of similarities and differences between the N2pc and SPCN, consistent with the view that N2pc reflects mechanisms of attentional selection whereas the SPCN reflects maintenance in visual short-term memory.

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