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Spatial resolution fundamentally limits any image representation. Although this limit has been extensively investigated for perceptual representations by assessing how neighboring flankers degrade the perception of a peripheral target with visual crowding, the corresponding limit for representations held in visual working memory (VWM) is unknown. In the present study, we evoked crowding in VWM and directly compared resolution in VWM and perception. Remarkably, the spatial resolution of VWM proved to be no worse than that of perception. However, mixture modeling of errors caused by crowding revealed the qualitatively distinct nature of these representations. Perceptual crowding errors arose from both increased imprecision in target representations and substitution of flankers for targets. By contrast, VWM crowding errors arose exclusively from substitutions, which suggests that VWM transforms analog perceptual representations into discrete items. Thus, although perception and VWM share a common resolution limit, exceeding this limit reveals distinct mechanisms for perceiving images and holding them in mind.
© The Author(s) 2015.
Binocular rivalry and stimulus rivalry are two forms of perceptual instability that arise when the visual system is confronted with conflicting stimulus information. In the case of binocular rivalry, dissimilar monocular stimuli are presented to the two eyes for an extended period of time, whereas for stimulus rivalry the dissimilar monocular stimuli are exchanged rapidly and repetitively between the eyes during extended viewing. With both forms of rivalry, one experiences extended durations of exclusive perceptual dominance that fluctuate between the two stimuli. Whether these two forms of rivalry arise within different stages of visual processing has remained debatable. Using an individual-differences approach, we found that both stimulus rivalry and binocular rivalry exhibited same-shaped distributions of dominance durations among a sample of 30 observers and, moreover, that the dominance durations measured during binocular and stimulus rivalry were significantly correlated among our sample of observers. Furthermore, we found a significant, positive correlation between alternation rate in binocular rivalry and the incidence of stimulus rivalry. These results suggest that the two forms of rivalry may be tapping common neural mechanisms, or at least different mechanisms with comparable time constants. It remains to be learned just why the incidences of binocular rivalry and stimulus rivalry vary so greatly among people.
Humans show large and reliable performance impairments when required to make more than one simple decision simultaneously. Such multitasking costs are thought to largely reflect capacity limits in response selection (Welford, 1952; Pashler, 1984, 1994), the information processing stage at which sensory input is mapped to a motor response. Neuroimaging has implicated the left posterior lateral prefrontal cortex (pLPFC) as a key neural substrate of response selection (Dux et al., 2006, 2009; Ivanoff et al., 2009). For example, activity in left pLPFC tracks improvements in response selection efficiency typically observed following training (Dux et al., 2009). To date, however, there has been no causal evidence that pLPFC contributes directly to sensory-motor training effects, or the operations through which training occurs. Moreover, the left hemisphere lateralization of this operation remains controversial (Jiang and Kanwisher, 2003; Sigman and Dehaene, 2008; Verbruggen et al., 2010). We used anodal (excitatory), cathodal (inhibitory), and sham transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to left and right pLPFC and measured participants' performance on high and low response selection load tasks after different amounts of training. Both anodal and cathodal stimulation of the left pLPFC disrupted training effects for the high load condition relative to sham. No disruption was found for the low load and right pLPFC stimulation conditions. The findings implicate the left pLPFC in both response selection and training effects. They also suggest that training improves response selection efficiency by fine-tuning activity in pLPFC relating to sensory-motor translations.
People with grapheme-color synesthesia perceive specific colors when viewing different letters or numbers. Previous studies have suggested that synesthetic color experience can be bistable when induced by an ambiguous character. However, the exact relationship between processes underlying the identity of an alphanumeric character and the experience of the induced synesthetic color has not been examined. In the present study, we explored this by focusing on the temporal relation of inducer identification and color emergence using inducers whose identity could be rendered ambiguous upon rotation of the characters. Specifically, achromatic alphabetic letters (W/M) and digits (6/9) were presented at varying angles to 9 grapheme-color synesthetes. Results showed that grapheme identification and synesthetically perceived grapheme color covary with the orientation of the test stimulus and that synesthetes were slower naming the experienced color than identifying the character, particularly at intermediate angles where ambiguity was greatest.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
There is considerable debate on whether working memory (WM) storage is mediated by distinct subsystems for auditory and visual stimuli (Baddeley, 1986) or whether it is constrained by a single, central capacity-limited system (Cowan, 2006). Recent studies have addressed this issue by measuring the dual-task cost during the concurrent storage of auditory and visual arrays (e.g., Cocchini, Logie, Della Sala, MacPherson, & Baddeley, 2002; Fougnie & Marois, 2006; Saults & Cowan, 2007). However, studies have yielded widely different dual-task costs, which have been taken to support both modality-specific and central capacity-limit accounts of WM storage. Here, we demonstrate that the controversies regarding such costs mostly stem from how these costs are measured. Measures that compare combined dual-task capacity with the higher single-task capacity support a single, central WM store when there is a large disparity between the single-task capacities (Experiment 1) but not when the single-task capacities are well equated (Experiment 2). In contrast, measures of the dual-task cost that normalize for differences in single-task capacity reveal evidence for modality-specific stores, regardless of single-task performance. Moreover, these normalized measures indicate that dual-task cost is much smaller if the tasks do not involve maintaining bound feature representations in WM (Experiment 3). Taken together, these experiments not only resolve a discrepancy in the field and clarify how to assess the dual-task cost but also indicate that WM capacity can be constrained both by modality-specific and modality-independent sources of information processing.
The encoding of information into visual working memory (VWM) is not only a prerequisite step for efficient working memory, it is also considered to limit our ability to attend to, and be consciously aware of, task-relevant events. Despite its important role in visual cognition, the neural mechanisms underlying visual working memory encoding have not yet been specifically dissociated from those involved in perception and/or VWM maintenance. To isolate the brain substrates supporting VWM encoding, here we sought to identify, with time-resolved fMRI, brain regions whose temporal profile of activation tracked the time course of VWM encoding. We applied this approach to two different stimulus categories - colors and faces - that dramatically differ in their encoding time. While several cortical and subcortical regions were activated during the VWM encoding period, one of these regions in the lateral prefrontal cortex - the inferior frontal junction - showed a temporal activation profile associated with the duration of encoding and that could not be accounted for by either perceptual or general attentional effects. Moreover, this region corresponds to the prefrontal area previously implicated in 'attentional blink' paradigms demonstrating attentional limits to conscious perception. These results not only suggest that the inferior frontal junction is involved in VWM encoding, they also provide neural support for theories positing that VWM encoding is a rate-limiting process underlying our attentional limits to visual awareness.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
An influential theory suggests that integrated objects, rather than individual features, are the fundamental units that limit our capacity to temporarily store visual information (S. J. Luck & E. K. Vogel, 1997). Using a paradigm that independently estimates the number and precision of items stored in working memory (W. Zhang & S. J. Luck, 2008), here we show that the storage of features is not cost-free. The precision and number of objects held in working memory was estimated when observers had to remember either the color, the orientation, or both the color and orientation of simple objects. We found that while the quantity of stored objects was largely unaffected by increasing the number of features, the precision of these representations dramatically decreased. Moreover, this selective deterioration in object precision depended on the multiple features being contained within the same objects. Such fidelity costs were even observed with change detection paradigms when those paradigms placed demands on the precision of the stored visual representations. Taken together, these findings not only demonstrate that the maintenance of integrated features is costly; they also suggest that objects and features affect visual working memory capacity differently.
Saccade stop signal and target step tasks are used to investigate the mechanisms of cognitive control. Performance of these tasks can be explained as the outcome of a race between stochastic go and stop processes. The race model analyses assume that response times (RTs) measured throughout an experimental session are independent samples from stationary stochastic processes. This article demonstrates that RTs are neither independent nor stationary for humans and monkeys performing saccade stopping and target-step tasks. We investigate the consequences that this has on analyses of these data. Nonindependent and nonstationary RTs artificially flatten inhibition functions and account for some of the systematic differences in RTs following different types of trials. However, nonindependent and nonstationary RTs do not bias the estimation of the stop signal RT. These results demonstrate the robustness of the race model to some aspects of nonindependence and nonstationarity and point to useful extensions of the model.
The concurrent maintenance of two visual working memory (VWM) arrays can lead to profound interference. It is unclear, however, whether these costs arise from limitations in VWM storage capacity (Fougnie & Marois, 2006) or from interference between the storage of one visual array and encoding or retrieval of another visual array (Cowan & Morey, 2007). Here, we show that encoding a VWM array does not interfere with maintenance of another VWM array unless the two displays exceed maintenance capacity (Experiments 1 and 2). Moreover, manipulating the extent to which encoding and maintenance can interfere with one another had no discernable effect on dual-task performance (Experiment 2). Finally, maintenance of a VWM array was not affected by retrieval of information from another VWM array (Experiment 3). Taken together, these findings demonstrate that dual-task interference between two concurrent VWM tasks is due to a capacity-limited store that is independent from encoding and retrieval processes.
Several accounts of the attentional blink (AB) have postulated that this dual-target deficit occurs because of limited-capacity attentional resources being devoted to processing the first target at the expense of the second (resource depletion accounts; e.g., Chun & Potter, 1995). Recent accounts have challenged this model (e.g., Di Lollo, Kawahara, Ghorashi, & Enns, 2005; Olivers, van der Stigchel, & Hulleman, 2007), proposing instead that the AB occurs because of subjects' inability to maintain appropriate levels of attentional controlwhen targets are separated by distractors. Accordingly, the AB is eliminated when three targets from the same attentional set are presented sequentially in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream. However, under such conditions poorer identification of the first target is typically observed, hinting at a potential trade-off between the first and subsequent target performances. Consistent with this hypothesis, the present study shows that an AB is observed for successive targets from the same attentional set in an RSVP stream when the first target powerfully captures attention. These results suggest that resource depletion contributes significantly to the AB.