Binding in visual working memory: the role of the episodic buffer

Neuropsychologia. 2011 May;49(6):1393-400. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.12.042. Epub 2011 Jan 20.


The episodic buffer component of working memory is assumed to play a central role in the binding of features into objects, a process that was initially assumed to depend upon executive resources. Here, we review a program of work in which we specifically tested this assumption by studying the effects of a range of attentionally demanding concurrent tasks on the capacity to encode and retain both individual features and bound objects. We found no differential effect of concurrent load, even when the process of binding was made more demanding by separating the shape and color features spatially, temporally or across visual and auditory modalities. Bound features were however more readily disrupted by subsequent stimuli, a process we studied using a suffix paradigm. This suggested a need to assume a feature-based attentional filter followed by an object based storage process. Our results are interpreted within a modified version of the multicomponent working memory model. We also discuss work examining the role of the hippocampus in visual feature binding.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Photic Stimulation