ESI Lecture by Benjamin Peters and Jochen Kaiser

Friday, December 15, 2017, 15:00-17:00
Lecture Hall, ESI
Benjamin Peters and Jochen Kaiser (Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

Attention fluctuates rhythmically between objects in working memory

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 100 to 900 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.