One of the most fundamental, and most studied, human cognitive functions is working memory. Yet, it is currently unknown how working memory is unified. In other words, why does a healthy human brain have one integrated capacity of working memory, rather than one capacity per visual hemifield, for instance. Thus, healthy subjects can memorize roughly as many items, regardless of whether all items are presented in one hemifield, rather than throughout two visual hemifields. In this current research, we investigated two patients in whom either most, or the entire, corpus callosum has been cut to alleviate otherwise untreatable epilepsy. Crucially, in both patients the anterior parts connecting the frontal and most of the parietal cortices, are entirely removed. This is essential, since it is often posited that working memory resides in these areas of the cortex. We found that despite the lack of direct connections between the frontal cortices in these patients, working memory capacity is similar regardless of whether stimuli are all presented in one visual hemifield or across two visual hemifields. This indicates that in the absence of the anterior parts of the corpus callosum working memory remains unified. Moreover, it is important to note that memory performance was not similar across visual fields. In fact, capacity was higher when items appeared in the left visual hemifield than when they appeared in the right visual hemifield. Visual information in the left hemifield is processed by the right hemisphere and vice versa. Therefore, this indicates that visual working memory is not symmetric, with the right hemisphere having a superior visual working memory. Nonetheless, a (subcortical) bottleneck apparently causes visual working memory to be integrated, such that capacity does not increase when items are presented in two, rather than one, visual hemifield.

Unified Visual Working Memory without the Anterior Corpus Callosum

Gabriele Polonara;Simona Lattanzi;Mara Fabri
2020

Abstract

One of the most fundamental, and most studied, human cognitive functions is working memory. Yet, it is currently unknown how working memory is unified. In other words, why does a healthy human brain have one integrated capacity of working memory, rather than one capacity per visual hemifield, for instance. Thus, healthy subjects can memorize roughly as many items, regardless of whether all items are presented in one hemifield, rather than throughout two visual hemifields. In this current research, we investigated two patients in whom either most, or the entire, corpus callosum has been cut to alleviate otherwise untreatable epilepsy. Crucially, in both patients the anterior parts connecting the frontal and most of the parietal cortices, are entirely removed. This is essential, since it is often posited that working memory resides in these areas of the cortex. We found that despite the lack of direct connections between the frontal cortices in these patients, working memory capacity is similar regardless of whether stimuli are all presented in one visual hemifield or across two visual hemifields. This indicates that in the absence of the anterior parts of the corpus callosum working memory remains unified. Moreover, it is important to note that memory performance was not similar across visual fields. In fact, capacity was higher when items appeared in the left visual hemifield than when they appeared in the right visual hemifield. Visual information in the left hemifield is processed by the right hemisphere and vice versa. Therefore, this indicates that visual working memory is not symmetric, with the right hemisphere having a superior visual working memory. Nonetheless, a (subcortical) bottleneck apparently causes visual working memory to be integrated, such that capacity does not increase when items are presented in two, rather than one, visual hemifield.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11566/286093
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