Visuospatial and verbal working memory load: effects on visuospatial vigilance

William S Helton, Paul N Russell
Experimental Brain Research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation Cérébrale 2013, 224 (3): 429-36
In this study, we examined the impact of concurrent verbal and visuospatial working memory demands on performance of a visuospatial successive target detection task. Three hundred and four participants performed a visuospatial vigilance task while simultaneously performing either a spatial or verbal working memory task that either required a memory load during the vigil or did not require a memory load during the vigil. Perceptual sensitivity A' to vigilance target stimuli was reduced by concurrent memory load, both verbal and visuospatial. The decline in perceptual sensitivity to vigilance targets, the vigilance decrement, was steeper for a visuospatial memory task than a verbal memory task, regardless of concurrent memory load. Memory performance after vigilance detection trials was much lower for visuospatial than verbal items, even though memory performance before vigilance detection trials was higher for visuospatial than verbal items. Together, this indicates increased interference when a visuospatial vigilance task is paired with a visuospatial memory task, than when paired with a verbal memory task. Overall, the visuospatial and verbal working memory loads both impacted vigilance target detection, suggesting utilization of common executive resources. There may, however, be domain specific interference, and this may be exacerbated for two visuospatial tasks.

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