Ventral fronto-parietal contributions to the disruption of visual working memory storage

Jonathan G Hakun, Susan M Ravizza
NeuroImage 2016 January 1, 124 (Pt A): 783-793
The ability to maintain information in visual working memory (VWM) in the presence of ongoing visual input allows for flexible goal-directed behavior. Previous evidence suggests that categorical overlap between visual distractors and the contents of VWM is associated with both the degree to which distractors disrupt VWM performance and activation among fronto-parietal regions of cortex. While within-category distractors have been shown to elicit a greater response in ventral fronto-parietal regions, to date, no study has linked distractor-evoked response of these regions to VWM performance costs. Here we examined the contributions of ventral fronto-parietal cortex to the disruption of VWM storage by manipulating memoranda-distractor similarity. Our results revealed that the degree of activation across cortex was graded in a manner suggesting that similarity between the contents of VWM and visual distractors influenced distractor processing. While abrupt visual onsets failed to engage ventral fronto-parietal regions during VWM maintenance, objects sharing categorical- (Related objects) and feature-overlap (Matched objects) with VWM elicited a significant response in the right TPJ and right AI. Of central relevance, the magnitude of activation in the right AI elicited by both types of distractor objects subsequently predicted costs to binding change detection accuracy. In addition, Related and Matched distractors differentially affected ventral-dorsal connectivity between the right AI and dorsal parietal regions, uniquely contributing to disruption of VWM storage. Together, our current results implicate activation of ventral fronto-parietal cortex in disruption of VWM storage, and disconnection between ventral frontal and dorsal parietal cortices as a mechanism to protect the contents of VWM.

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