Distributed Patterns of Occipito-Parietal Functional Connectivity Predict the Precision of Visual Working Memory

Neuroimage. 2017 Feb 1;146:404-418. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.10.006. Epub 2016 Oct 6.


Limitations in visual working memory (WM) quality (i.e., WM precision) may depend on perceptual and attentional limitations during stimulus encoding, thereby affecting WM capacity. WM encoding relies on the interaction between sensory processing systems and fronto-parietal 'control' regions, and differences in the quality of this interaction are a plausible source of individual differences in WM capacity. Accordingly, we hypothesized that the coupling between perceptual and attentional systems affects the quality of WM encoding. We combined fMRI connectivity analysis with behavioral modeling by fitting a variable precision and fixed capacity model to the performance data obtained while participants performed a visual delayed continuous response WM task. We quantified functional connectivity during WM encoding between occipital and parietal brain regions activated during both perception and WM encoding, as determined using a conjunction of two independent experiments. The multivariate pattern of voxel-wise inter-areal functional connectivity significantly predicted WM performance, most specifically the mean of WM precision but not the individual number of items that could be stored in memory. In particular, higher occipito-parietal connectivity was associated with higher behavioral mean precision. These results are consistent with a network perspective of WM capacity, suggesting that the efficiency of information flow between perceptual and attentional neural systems is a critical determinant of limitations in WM quality.

Keywords: Capacity limitation; Occipito-parietal functional connectivity; Working memory precision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Occipital Lobe / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult