Flexible coding of visual working memory representations during distraction

Elizabeth S. Lorenc, Kartik K. Sreenivasan, Derek E. Nee, Annelinde R.E. Vandenbroucke, Mark D’Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Visual working memory (VWM) recruits a broad network of brain regions, including prefrontal, parietal, and visual cortices. Recent evidence supports a “sensory recruitment” model of VWM, whereby precise visual details are maintained in the same stimulus-selective regions responsible for perception. A key question in evaluating the sensory recruitment model is how VWM representations persist through distracting visual input, given that the early visual areas that putatively represent VWM content are susceptible to interference from visual stimulation. To address this question, we used a functional magnetic resonance imaging inverted encoding model approach to quantitatively assess the effect of distractors on VWM representations in early visual cortex and the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), another region previously implicated in the storage of VWM information. This approach allowed us to reconstruct VWM representations for orientation, both before and after visual interference, and to examine whether oriented distractors systematically biased these representations. In our human participants (both male and female), we found that orientation information was maintained simultaneously in early visual areas and IPS in anticipation of possible distraction, and these representations persisted in the absence of distraction. Importantly, early visual representations were susceptible to interference; VWM orientations reconstructed from visual cortex were significantly biased toward distractors, corresponding to a small attractive bias in behavior. In contrast, IPS representations did not show such a bias. These results provide quantitative insight into the effect of interference on VWM representations, and they suggest a dynamic tradeoff between visual and parietal regions that allows flexible adaptation to task demands in service of VWM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5267-5276
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume38
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 6 2018

Keywords

  • Distraction
  • Sensory recruitment
  • Visual working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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