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

Tobias Katus* (Corresponding Author), Martin Eimer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


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
Pages (from-to)296-310
Number of pages15
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number1
Early online date9 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020



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

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