The present study investigated the binding of verbal and spatial features in immediate memory. In a recent study, we demonstrated incidental and asymmetrical letter-location binding effects when participants attended to letter features (but not when they attended to location features) that were associated with greater oscillatory activity over prefrontal and posterior regions during the retention period. We were interested to investigate whether the patterns of brain activity associated with the incidental binding of letters and locations observed when only the verbal feature is attended differ from those reflecting the binding resulting from the controlled/explicit processing of both verbal and spatial features. To achieve this, neural activity was recorded using magnetoencephalography (MEG) while participants performed two working memory tasks. Both tasks were identical in terms of their perceptual characteristics and only differed with respect to the task instructions. One of the tasks required participants to process both letters and locations. In the other, participants were instructed to memorize only the letters, regardless of their location. Time-frequency representation of MEG data based on the wavelet transform of the signals was calculated on a single trial basis during the maintenance period of both tasks. Critically, despite equivalent behavioural binding effects in both tasks, single and dual feature encoding relied on different neuroanatomical and neural oscillatory correlates. We propose that enhanced activation of an anterior-posterior dorsal network observed in the task requiring the processing of both features reflects the necessity for allocating greater resources to intentionally process verbal and spatial features in this task.
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