Visual working memories are abstractions of percepts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During perception, decoding the orientation of gratings depends on complex interactions between the orientation of the grating, aperture edges, and topographic structure of the visual map. Here, we aimed to test how aperture biases described during perception affect working memory (WM) decoding. For memoranda, we used gratings multiplied by radial and angular modulators to generate orthogonal aperture biases for identical orientations. Therefore, if WM representations are simply maintained sensory representations, they would have similar aperture biases. If they are abstractions of sensory features, they would be unbiased and the modulator would have no effect on orientation decoding. Neural patterns of delay period activity while maintaining the orientation of gratings with one modulator (e.g. radial) were interchangeable with patterns while maintaining gratings with the other modulator (e.g. angular) in visual and parietal cortex, suggesting that WM representations are insensitive to aperture biases during perception. Then, we visualized memory abstractions of stimuli using models of visual field map properties. Regardless of aperture biases, WM representations of both modulated gratings were recoded into a single oriented line. These results provide strong evidence that visual WM representations are abstractions of percepts, immune to perceptual aperture biases, and compel revisions of WM theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberRP94191
StatePublished - May 31 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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