Neural Signatures of Stimulus Features in Visual Working Memory—A Spatiotemporal Approach

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We examined the neural signatures of stimulus features in visual working memory (WM) by integrating functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and event-related potential data recorded during mental manipulation of colors, rotation angles, and color–angle conjunctions. The N200, negative slow wave, and P3b were modulated by the information content of WM, and an fMRI-constrained source model revealed a progression in neural activity from posterior visual areas to higher order areas in the ventral and dorsal processing streams. Color processing was associated with activity in inferior frontal gyrus during encoding and retrieval, whereas angle processing involved right parietal regions during the delay interval. WM for color–angle conjunctions did not involve any additional neural processes. The finding that different patterns of brain activity underlie WM for color and spatial information is consistent with ideas that the ventral/dorsal “what/where” segregation of perceptual processing influences WM organization. The absence of characteristic signatures of conjunction-related brain activity, which was generally intermediate between the 2 single conditions, suggests that conjunction judgments are based on the coordinated activity of these 2 streams.

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