Attention supports verbal short-term memory via competition between dorsal and ventral attention networks

Steve Majerus, Lucie Attout, Arnaud D'Argembeau, Christian Degueldre, Wim Fias, Pierre Maquet, Trecy Martinez Perez, David Stawarczyk, Eric Salmon, Martial Van der Linden, Christophe Phillips, Evelyne Balteau
Cerebral Cortex 2012, 22 (5): 1086-97
Interactions between the neural correlates of short-term memory (STM) and attention have been actively studied in the visual STM domain but much less in the verbal STM domain. Here we show that the same attention mechanisms that have been shown to shape the neural networks of visual STM also shape those of verbal STM. Based on previous research in visual STM, we contrasted the involvement of a dorsal attention network centered on the intraparietal sulcus supporting task-related attention and a ventral attention network centered on the temporoparietal junction supporting stimulus-related attention. We observed that, with increasing STM load, the dorsal attention network was activated while the ventral attention network was deactivated, especially during early maintenance. Importantly, activation in the ventral attention network increased in response to task-irrelevant stimuli briefly presented during the maintenance phase of the STM trials but only during low-load STM conditions, which were associated with the lowest levels of activity in the dorsal attention network during encoding and early maintenance. By demonstrating a trade-off between task-related and stimulus-related attention networks during verbal STM, this study highlights the dynamics of attentional processes involved in verbal STM.

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