JOURNAL ARTICLE

Posterior parietal cortex mediates encoding and maintenance processes in change blindness

Philip Tseng, Tzu-Yu Hsu, Neil G Muggleton, Ovid J L Tzeng, Daisy L Hung, Chi-Hung Juan
Neuropsychologia 2010, 48 (4): 1063-70
20005882
It is commonly accepted that right posterior parietal cortex (PPC) plays an important role in updating spatial representations, directing visuospatial attention, and planning actions. However, recent studies suggest that right PPC may also be involved in processes that are more closely associated with our visual awareness as its activation level positively correlates with successful conscious change detection (Beck, D.M., Rees, G., Frith, C.D., & Lavie, N. (2001). Neural correlates of change detection and change blindness. Nature Neuroscience, 4, 645-650.). Furthermore, disruption of its activity increases the occurrences of change blindness, thus suggesting a causal role for right PPC in change detection (Beck, D.M., Muggleton, N., Walsh, V., & Lavie, N. (2006). Right parietal cortex plays a critical role in change blindness. Cerebral Cortex, 16, 712-717.). In the context of a 1-shot change detection paradigm, we applied transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) during different time intervals to elucidate the temporally precise involvement of PPC in change detection. While subjects attempted to detect changes between two image sets separated by a brief time interval, TMS was applied either during the presentation of picture 1 when subjects were encoding and maintaining information into visual short-term memory, or picture 2 when subjects were retrieving information relating to picture 1 and comparing it to picture 2. Our results show that change blindness occurred more often when TMS was applied during the viewing of picture 1, which implies that right PPC plays a crucial role in the processes of encoding and maintaining information in visual short-term memory. In addition, since our stimuli did not involve changes in spatial locations, our findings also support previous studies suggesting that PPC may be involved in the processes of encoding non-spatial visual information (Todd, J.J. & Marois, R. (2004). Capacity limit of visual short-term memory in human posterior parietal cortex. Nature, 428, 751-754.).

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