The role of early visual cortex in visual short-term memory and visual attention

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Abstract

We measured cortical activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging to probe the involvement of early visual cortex in visual short-term memory and visual attention. In four experimental tasks, human subjects viewed two visual stimuli separated by a variable delay period. The tasks placed differential demands on short-term memory and attention, but the stimuli were visually identical until after the delay period. Early visual cortex exhibited sustained responses throughout the delay when subjects performed attention-demanding tasks, but delay-period activity was not distinguishable from zero when subjects performed a task that required short-term memory. This dissociation reveals different computational mechanisms underlying the two processes.

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