The lasting memory enhancements of retrospective attention

Sarah Reaves, Jonathan Strunk, Shekinah Phillips, Paul Verhaeghen, Audrey Duarte
Brain Research 2016 July 1, 1642: 226-237
Behavioral research has shown that spatial cues that orient attention toward task relevant items being maintained in visual short-term memory (VSTM) enhance item memory accuracy. However, it is unknown if these retrospective attentional cues ("retro-cues") enhance memory beyond typical short-term memory delays. It is also unknown whether retro-cues affect the spatial information associated with VSTM representations. Emerging evidence suggests that processes that affect short-term memory maintenance may also affect long-term memory (LTM) but little work has investigated the role of attention in LTM. In the current event-related potential (ERP) study, we investigated the duration of retrospective attention effects and the impact of retrospective attention manipulations on VSTM representations. Results revealed that retro-cueing improved both VSTM and LTM memory accuracy and that posterior maximal ERPs observed during VSTM maintenance predicted subsequent LTM performance. N2pc ERPs associated with attentional selection were attenuated by retro-cueing suggesting that retrospective attention may disrupt maintenance of spatial configural information in VSTM. Collectively, these findings suggest that retrospective attention can alter the structure of memory representations, which impacts memory performance beyond short-term memory delays.

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