The Bandwidth of VWM Consolidation Varies With the Stimulus Feature: Evidence From Event-Related Potentials

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Our previous work suggests that 2 colors can be consolidated into visual short-term memory (VSTM) in parallel without a loss of memory precision, whereas consolidation of 2 orientations is performed in a strictly serial manner. Those experiments compared VSTM performance for simultaneously and sequentially presented stimuli. However, there is still controversy about whether the bandwidth for consolidation is determined by the type of information. To further investigate this issue, here we measured electroencephalography while participants attempted to consolidate 1, 2 or 4 simultaneously presented colors (Experiment 1) or orientations (Experiment 2) under limited presentation times. We used the contralateral delay activity (CDA) as an electrophysiological marker of the number of items that were consolidated. For colored stimuli, the CDA amplitude increased between set-size 1 and 2 but did not further increase for set size 4. By contrast, for orientation, the CDA amplitude remained at the set size 1 amplitude as set size increased to 2 or 4 items. Furthermore, in a long exposure duration (300 ms) condition that did not limit the consolidation process, the CDA amplitude pattern indicated that VSTM capacity is limited to about 3 colored items and about 2 orientation items in our paradigm. Thus, the CDA effects observed in the short presentation time was not limited by VSTM storage, but rather by consolidation. These results are consistent with our previous behavioral research and suggest that the bandwidth of VSTM consolidation is determined by the stimulus feature.

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