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Perturbing neural representations of working memory with task-irrelevant interruption

Perturbing neural representations of working memory with task-irrelevant interruption
Perturbing neural representations of working memory with task-irrelevant interruption
Working memory maintains information so that it can be used in complex cognitive tasks. A key challenge for this system is to maintain relevant information in the face of task-irrelevant perturbations. Across two experiments, we investigated the impact of task-irrelevant interruptions on neural representations of working memory. We recorded EEG activity in humans while they performed a working memory task. On a subset of trials, we interrupted participants with salient but task-irrelevant objects. To track the impact of these task-irrelevant interruptions on neural representations of working memory, we measured two well-characterized, temporally sensitive EEG markers that reflect active, prioritized working memory representations: the contralateral delay activity and lateralized alpha power (8–12 Hz). After interruption, we found that contralateral delay activity amplitude momentarily sustained but was gone by the end of the trial. Lateralized alpha power was immediately influenced by the interrupters but recovered by the end of the trial. This suggests that dissociable neural processes contribute to the maintenance of working memory information and that brief irrelevant onsets disrupt two distinct online aspects of working memory. In addition, we found that task expectancy modulated the timing and magnitude of how these two neural signals responded to task-irrelevant interruptions, suggesting that the brain's response to task-irrelevant interruption is shaped by task context.
0898-929X
558-569
Hakim, Nicole
97d86c63-60a0-40d4-ae44-e2150aaf9216
Feldmann-Wustefeld, Tobias
ad65a041-3b03-4374-8483-2eb878a6c909
Vogel, Edward
6bf785d7-cdd3-46b7-8d7d-9f6795b9e5bc
Awh, Edward
6b01bfba-ab16-4083-8456-a7050a3311f8
Hakim, Nicole
97d86c63-60a0-40d4-ae44-e2150aaf9216
Feldmann-Wustefeld, Tobias
ad65a041-3b03-4374-8483-2eb878a6c909
Vogel, Edward
6bf785d7-cdd3-46b7-8d7d-9f6795b9e5bc
Awh, Edward
6b01bfba-ab16-4083-8456-a7050a3311f8

Hakim, Nicole, Feldmann-Wustefeld, Tobias, Vogel, Edward and Awh, Edward (2020) Perturbing neural representations of working memory with task-irrelevant interruption. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32 (3), 558-569. (doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01481).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Working memory maintains information so that it can be used in complex cognitive tasks. A key challenge for this system is to maintain relevant information in the face of task-irrelevant perturbations. Across two experiments, we investigated the impact of task-irrelevant interruptions on neural representations of working memory. We recorded EEG activity in humans while they performed a working memory task. On a subset of trials, we interrupted participants with salient but task-irrelevant objects. To track the impact of these task-irrelevant interruptions on neural representations of working memory, we measured two well-characterized, temporally sensitive EEG markers that reflect active, prioritized working memory representations: the contralateral delay activity and lateralized alpha power (8–12 Hz). After interruption, we found that contralateral delay activity amplitude momentarily sustained but was gone by the end of the trial. Lateralized alpha power was immediately influenced by the interrupters but recovered by the end of the trial. This suggests that dissociable neural processes contribute to the maintenance of working memory information and that brief irrelevant onsets disrupt two distinct online aspects of working memory. In addition, we found that task expectancy modulated the timing and magnitude of how these two neural signals responded to task-irrelevant interruptions, suggesting that the brain's response to task-irrelevant interruption is shaped by task context.

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Accepted/In Press date: 21 September 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 30 January 2020
Published date: March 2020

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Local EPrints ID: 434636
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/434636
ISSN: 0898-929X
PURE UUID: a8428b21-49dd-4d3b-a70a-59c2db770785

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Date deposited: 04 Oct 2019 16:30
Last modified: 14 May 2020 16:37

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Contributors

Author: Nicole Hakim
Author: Edward Vogel
Author: Edward Awh

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