Neurophysiological mechanisms of action-modulated prioritization in visual working memory

Poster Presentation 43.424: Monday, May 22, 2023, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Visual Working Memory: Neural mechanisms

Caterina Trentin1 (), Christian N.L. Olivers1, Heleen A. Slagter1; 1Vrije Universiteit

Recent research suggests that a stimulus in visual working memory (VWM) that is the direct target of an action plan biases attention more than stimuli which are not the direct target of an action plan. In this EEG study (n=36), we aimed at investigating the neural mechanisms underlying this process. On each trial, participants first memorized a geometric shape presented on a touch screen for a subsequent memory test. In the memory test, they saw a probe together with a secondary stimulus: if the probe matched the memory, in the action condition, participants performed a grip action on the probe, while in the control condition, they performed the same action on the secondary stimulus. In case of a no-match, participants withheld any response. Importantly, during the memory delay, participants were presented with a visual search task in which they had to locate a target (the letter N) as fast as possible within one of two shapes. The memory shape was always present in the visual search task, either surrounding the target (congruent trials) or the distractor (incongruent trials). Our analysis of the reaction times during the visual search replicated previous findings, showing that when a visual shape was the target of an action plan in VWM, it was more distracting. ERP analyses showed that in the action condition, the memorized shape elicited a faster N2pc. Preliminary analyses also suggest that during maintenance, in the action condition, occipital alpha-band activity was suppressed more strongly. Together, these results suggest that linking an object in VWM to an action plan may strengthen its representation, in line with the notion that VWM serves goal-directed action.