August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
Electrical stimulation improves visual attention by speeding the shift of control by long-term memory
Author Affiliations
  • Robert Reinhart
    Psychology Department, Vanderbilt University
  • Geoffrey Woodman
    Psychology Department, Vanderbilt University
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 637. doi:
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      Robert Reinhart, Geoffrey Woodman; Electrical stimulation improves visual attention by speeding the shift of control by long-term memory. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):637. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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New evidence indicates that noninvasive brain stimulation can induce safe and reversible improvements in learning during the performance of visual tasks. However, the cognitive mechanisms underlying these learning effects are unknown. Here we show that the improvements in learning are due to changes in how rapidly long-term memory representations replace working memory representations in controlling visual processing. Using transcranial direct-current stimulation of medial-frontal cortex, we selectively enhanced the neural activity related to long-term memory and induced single-trial learning during a memory-guided visual search task. In contrast, medial-frontal stimulation did not change the neural index of working memory in attentional control. Moreover, parietal cortex stimulation spared all measures of top-down control and learning, demonstrating the specificity of the medial-frontal effects on learning during visual processing. In a subsequent experiment, we replicated and generalized our results to a task in which subjects searched for targets among complex real-world objects. Our findings provide new insight into the nature of the memory representations underlying plasticity and learning to control visual attention.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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