The role of early visual cortex in visual short-term memory and visual attention

Vision Res. 2009 Jun;49(10):1352-62. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2007.12.022. Epub 2008 Mar 7.


We measured cortical activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging to probe the involvement of early visual cortex in visual short-term memory and visual attention. In four experimental tasks, human subjects viewed two visual stimuli separated by a variable delay period. The tasks placed differential demands on short-term memory and attention, but the stimuli were visually identical until after the delay period. Early visual cortex exhibited sustained responses throughout the delay when subjects performed attention-demanding tasks, but delay-period activity was not distinguishable from zero when subjects performed a task that required short-term memory. This dissociation reveals different computational mechanisms underlying the two processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*