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Psychological and Brain Sciences Colloquium: Edward Awh, University of Chicago

Friday, December 10, 2021 - 3:30pm
Psychological and Brain Sciences Building

Psychological and Brain Sciences Colloquium

Edward S. Awh, Professor, Department of Psychology, The Institute for Mind and Biology, and Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology and Human Behavior, The University of Chicago

The Role of Content-Independent Pointers in Visual Working Memory

Storage in visual working memory is highly limited. "Slot" models argue that this reflects a limit on the number of individuated items that can be stored, rather than a limit on the total amount of information held within those items. Why would storage limits be item-based rather than information-based? One possibility is that storage entails the operation of a limited number of spatiotemporal "pointers" (e.g., Khaneman's object files; Pylyshyn's FINSTs) that serve to bind together multiple features of an object. I'll present a multivariate approach for decoding working memory load based on EEG voltage topography. This approach enables trial-by-trial decoding of working memory load, and the load-specific patterns of neural activity generalize across different stimuli and observers. Critically, this load-dependent activity tracks the number of stored items, independent of the type and number of features stored about each item. Thus, our limited ability to deploy these pointers may explain slot-like empirical patterns in behavioral and neural studies of working memory.