Visual working memory gives up attentional control early in learning: ruling out interhemispheric cancellation

Robert M G Reinhart, Nancy B Carlisle, Geoffrey F Woodman
Psychophysiology 2014, 51 (8): 800-4
Current research suggests that we can watch visual working memory surrender the control of attention early in the process of learning to search for a specific object. This inference is based on the observation that the contralateral delay activity (CDA) rapidly decreases in amplitude across trials when subjects search for the same target object. Here, we tested the alternative explanation that the role of visual working memory does not actually decline across learning, but instead lateralized representations accumulate in both hemispheres across trials and wash out the lateralized CDA. We show that the decline in CDA amplitude occurred even when the target objects were consistently lateralized to a single visual hemifield. Our findings demonstrate that reductions in the amplitude of the CDA during learning are not simply due to the dilution of the CDA from interhemispheric cancellation.

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