Enhancing links between visual short term memory, visual attention and cognitive control processes through practice: An electrophysiological insight

Giorgio Fuggetta, Philip A Duke

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The operation of attention on visible objects involves a sequence of cognitive processes. The current study firstly aimed to elucidate the effects of practice on neural mechanisms underlying attentional processes as measured with both behavioural and electrophysiological measures. Secondly, it aimed to identify any pattern in the relationship between Event-Related Potential (ERP) components which play a role in the operation of attention in vision. Twenty-seven participants took part in two recording sessions one week apart, performing an experimental paradigm which combined a match-to-sample task with a memory-guided efficient visual-search task within one trial sequence. Overall, practice decreased behavioural response times, increased accuracy, and modulated several ERP components that represent cognitive and neural processing stages. This neuromodulation through practice was also associated with an enhanced link between behavioural measures and ERP components and with an enhanced cortico-cortical interaction of functionally interconnected ERP components. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the ERP amplitude data revealed three components, having different rostro-caudal topographic representations. The first component included both the centro-parietal and parieto-occipital mismatch triggered negativity - involved in integration of visual representations of the target with current task-relevant representations stored in visual working memory - loaded with second negative posterior-bilateral (N2pb) component, involved in categorising specific pop-out target features. The second component comprised the amplitude of bilateral anterior P2 - related to detection of a specific pop-out feature - loaded with bilateral anterior N2, related to detection of conflicting features, and fronto-central mismatch triggered negativity. The third component included the parieto-occipital N1 - related to early neural responses to the stimulus array - which loaded with the second negative posterior-contralateral (N2pc) component, mediating the process of orienting and focusing covert attention on peripheral target features. We discussed these three components as representing different neurocognitive systems modulated with practice within which the input selection process operates.

Crown Copyright © 2017 Published by Elsevier B.V.

The attached document (embargoed until 08/04/2018) is an author produced version of a paper accepted for publication in Biological Psychology, uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051117300613. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-60
Early online date8 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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