Visual working memory enhances the neural response to matching visual input
Number of pages
SourceThe Journal of Neuroscience, 37, 28, (2017), pp. 6638-6647
Article / Letter to editor
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The Journal of Neuroscience
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control
Visual working memory (VWM) is used to maintain visual information available for subsequent goal-directed behavior. The content of VWM has been shown to affect the behavioral response to concurrent visual input, suggesting that visual representations originating from VWM and from sensory input draw upon a shared neural substrate (i.e., a sensory recruitment stance on VWM storage). Here, we hypothesized that visual information maintained in VWM would enhance the neural response to concurrent visual input that matches the content of VWM. To test this hypothesis, we measured fMRI BOLD responses to task-irrelevant stimuli acquired from 15 human participants (three males) performing a concurrent delayed match-to-sample task. In this task, observers were sequentially presented with two shape stimuli and a retro-cue indicating which of the two shapes should be memorized for subsequent recognition. During the retention interval, a task-irrelevant shape (the probe) was briefly presented in the peripheral visual field, which could either match or mismatch the shape category of the memorized stimulus. We show that this probe stimulus elicited a stronger BOLD response, and allowed for increased shape-classification performance, when it matched rather than mismatched the concurrently memorized content, despite identical visual stimulation. Our results demonstrate that VWM enhances the neural response to concurrent visual input in a content-specific way. This finding is consistent with the view that neural populations involved in sensory processing are recruited for VWM storage, and it provides a common explanation for a plethora of behavioral studies in which VWM-matching visual input elicits a stronger behavioral and perceptual response.
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