Neural sources of visual working memory maintenance in human parietal and ventral extrastriate visual cortex

Andreas Becke, Notger Müller, Anne Vellage, Mircea Ariel Schoenfeld, Jens-Max Hopf
NeuroImage 2015 April 15, 110: 78-86
Maintaining information in visual working memory is reliably indexed by the contralateral delay activity (CDA) - a sustained modulation of the event-related potential (ERP) with a topographical maximum over posterior scalp regions contralateral to the memorized input. Based on scalp topography, it is hypothesized that the CDA reflects neural activity in the parietal cortex, but the precise cortical origin of underlying electric activity was never determined. Here we combine ERP recordings with magnetoencephalography based source localization to characterize the cortical current sources generating the CDA. Observers performed a cued delayed match to sample task where either the color or the relative position of colored dots had to be maintained in memory. A detailed source-localization analysis of the magnetic activity in the retention interval revealed that the magnetic analog of the CDA (mCDA) is generated by current sources in the parietal cortex. Importantly, we find that the mCDA also receives contribution from current sources in the ventral extrastriate cortex that display a time-course similar to the parietal sources. On the basis of the magnetic responses, forward modeling of ERP data reveals that the ventral sources have non-optimal projections and that these sources are therefore concealed in the ERP by overlapping fields with parietal projections. The present observations indicate that visual working memory maintenance, as indexed by the CDA, involves the parietal cortical regions as well as the ventral extrastriate regions, which code the sensory representation of the memorized content.

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