Shifts of Spatial Attention in Visual and Tactile Working Memory are Controlled by Independent Modality-Specific Mechanisms

Tobias Katus (Corresponding Author), Martin Eimer

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Abstract

The question whether the attentional control of working memory (WM) is shared across sensory modalities remains controversial. Here, we investigated whether attention shifts in visual and tactile WM are regulated independently. Participants memorized visual and tactile targets in a first memory sample set (S1) before encoding targets in a second sample set (S2). Importantly, visual or tactile S2 targets could appear on the same side as the corresponding S1 targets, or on opposite sides, thus, requiring shifts of spatial attention in visual or tactile WM. The activation of WM representations in modality-specific visual and somatosensory areas was tracked by recording visual and tactile contralateral delay activity (CDA/tCDA). CDA/tCDA components emerged contralateral to the side of visual or tactile S1 targets, and reversed polarity when S2 targets in the same modality appeared on the opposite side. Critically, the visual CDA was unaffected by the presence versus absence of concurrent attention shifts in tactile WM, and the tactile CDA remained insensitive to visual attention shifts. Visual and tactile WM performance was also not modulated by attention shifts in the other modality. These results show that the dynamic control of visual and tactile WM activation processes operates in an independent modality-specific fashion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCerebral Cortex
Early online date9 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2019

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Short-Term Memory

Keywords

  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Multisensory (tactile/visual)
  • Spatial attention
  • Working memory (WM)

Cite this

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title = "Shifts of Spatial Attention in Visual and Tactile Working Memory are Controlled by Independent Modality-Specific Mechanisms",
abstract = "The question whether the attentional control of working memory (WM) is shared across sensory modalities remains controversial. Here, we investigated whether attention shifts in visual and tactile WM are regulated independently. Participants memorized visual and tactile targets in a first memory sample set (S1) before encoding targets in a second sample set (S2). Importantly, visual or tactile S2 targets could appear on the same side as the corresponding S1 targets, or on opposite sides, thus, requiring shifts of spatial attention in visual or tactile WM. The activation of WM representations in modality-specific visual and somatosensory areas was tracked by recording visual and tactile contralateral delay activity (CDA/tCDA). CDA/tCDA components emerged contralateral to the side of visual or tactile S1 targets, and reversed polarity when S2 targets in the same modality appeared on the opposite side. Critically, the visual CDA was unaffected by the presence versus absence of concurrent attention shifts in tactile WM, and the tactile CDA remained insensitive to visual attention shifts. Visual and tactile WM performance was also not modulated by attention shifts in the other modality. These results show that the dynamic control of visual and tactile WM activation processes operates in an independent modality-specific fashion.",
keywords = "Electroencephalography (EEG), event-related potentials (ERPs), Multisensory (tactile/visual), Spatial attention, Working memory (WM)",
author = "Tobias Katus and Martin Eimer",
note = "Leverhulme Trust (Grant RPG-2015-370).",
year = "2019",
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language = "English",
journal = "Cerebral Cortex",
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AU - Katus, Tobias

AU - Eimer, Martin

N1 - Leverhulme Trust (Grant RPG-2015-370).

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Y1 - 2019/5/9

N2 - The question whether the attentional control of working memory (WM) is shared across sensory modalities remains controversial. Here, we investigated whether attention shifts in visual and tactile WM are regulated independently. Participants memorized visual and tactile targets in a first memory sample set (S1) before encoding targets in a second sample set (S2). Importantly, visual or tactile S2 targets could appear on the same side as the corresponding S1 targets, or on opposite sides, thus, requiring shifts of spatial attention in visual or tactile WM. The activation of WM representations in modality-specific visual and somatosensory areas was tracked by recording visual and tactile contralateral delay activity (CDA/tCDA). CDA/tCDA components emerged contralateral to the side of visual or tactile S1 targets, and reversed polarity when S2 targets in the same modality appeared on the opposite side. Critically, the visual CDA was unaffected by the presence versus absence of concurrent attention shifts in tactile WM, and the tactile CDA remained insensitive to visual attention shifts. Visual and tactile WM performance was also not modulated by attention shifts in the other modality. These results show that the dynamic control of visual and tactile WM activation processes operates in an independent modality-specific fashion.

AB - The question whether the attentional control of working memory (WM) is shared across sensory modalities remains controversial. Here, we investigated whether attention shifts in visual and tactile WM are regulated independently. Participants memorized visual and tactile targets in a first memory sample set (S1) before encoding targets in a second sample set (S2). Importantly, visual or tactile S2 targets could appear on the same side as the corresponding S1 targets, or on opposite sides, thus, requiring shifts of spatial attention in visual or tactile WM. The activation of WM representations in modality-specific visual and somatosensory areas was tracked by recording visual and tactile contralateral delay activity (CDA/tCDA). CDA/tCDA components emerged contralateral to the side of visual or tactile S1 targets, and reversed polarity when S2 targets in the same modality appeared on the opposite side. Critically, the visual CDA was unaffected by the presence versus absence of concurrent attention shifts in tactile WM, and the tactile CDA remained insensitive to visual attention shifts. Visual and tactile WM performance was also not modulated by attention shifts in the other modality. These results show that the dynamic control of visual and tactile WM activation processes operates in an independent modality-specific fashion.

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