Tuesday, June 30, 2009

V4 activity predicts the strength of visual short-term memory representations.

Sligte IG, Scholte HS, Lamme VA.
J Neurosci. 2009 Jun 10;29(23):7432-8

Recent studies have shown the existence of a form of visual memory that lies intermediate of iconic memory and visual short-term memory (VSTM), in terms of both capacity (up to 15 items) and the duration of the memory trace (up to 4 s). Because new visual objects readily overwrite this intermediate visual store, we believe that it reflects a weak form of VSTM with high capacity that exists alongside a strong but capacity-limited form of VSTM. In the present study, we isolated brain activity related to weak and strong VSTM representations using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We found that activity in visual cortical area V4 predicted the strength of VSTM representations; activity was low when there was no VSTM, medium when there was a weak VSTM representation regardless of whether this weak representation was available for report or not, and high when there was a strong VSTM representation. Altogether, this study suggests that the high capacity yet weak VSTM store is represented in visual parts of the brain. Allegedly, only some of these VSTM traces are amplified by parietal and frontal regions and as a consequence reside in traditional or strong VSTM. The additional weak VSTM representations remain available for conscious access and report when attention is redirected to them yet are overwritten as soon as new visual stimuli hit the eyes.

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