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Benjamin Peters, Benjamin Rahm, Jochen Kaiser, Christoph Bledowski; Attention fluctuates rhythmically between objects in working memory. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):186. doi: 10.1167/18.10.186.
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Attention prioritizes relevant information based on spatial locations, features, or objects. Recently, it has been shown that attention is not allocated in a sustained and stable way but rather fluctuates periodically across time. In particular, object-based attentional selection leads to rhythmic patterns in detection rates that differ between attended and unattended objects. Working memory (WM) is hypothesized to utilize the same attentional mechanisms as perception. In support of this view, we have demonstrated that the principles of object-based attention in perception also apply to WM: Participants shifted their attention between memorized spatial positions faster within the same object than across different objects. We replicated this same-object benefit in the present study. Importantly, to test whether attention similarly fluctuates periodically between objects in WM, we manipulated the interval of a cued attentional shift in WM and the subsequent probe from 200 to 1000 ms with high temporal resolution. We observed that the same-object benefit was periodically modulated across time, corresponding to a rate of approximately 6Hz. In addition, the fluctuations at the attended object and the unattended object showed an anti-phase relationship, suggesting that attention alternated periodically between objects held in WM. These results suggest that the allocation of attention in WM is rhythmically modulated, supporting the hypothesized correspondence between attentional mechanisms in perception and WM.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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