Attentional templates in visual working memory

Nancy B Carlisle, Jason T Arita, Deborah Pardo, Geoffrey F Woodman
Journal of Neuroscience 2011 June 22, 31 (25): 9315-22
Most theories of attention propose that we maintain attentional templates in visual working memory to control what information is selected. In the present study, we directly tested this proposal by measuring the contralateral-delay activity (CDA) of human event-related potentials during visual search tasks in which the target is cued on each trial. Here we show that the CDA can be used to measure the maintenance of attentional templates in visual working memory while processing complex visual scenes. In addition, this method allowed us to directly observe the shift from working memory to long-term memory representations controlling attention as learning occurred and experience accrued searching for the same target object. Our findings provide definitive support for several critical proposals made in theories of attention, learning, and automaticity.

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