Working memory as an emergent property of the mind

Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1202 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53726, USA.
Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.36). 05/2006; 139(1):23-38. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.06.005
Source: PubMed


Cognitive neuroscience research on working memory has been largely motivated by a standard model that arose from the melding of psychological theory with neuroscience data. Among the tenets of this standard model are that working memory functions arise from the operation of specialized systems that act as buffers for the storage and manipulation of information, and that frontal cortex (particularly prefrontal cortex) is a critical neural substrate for these specialized systems. However, the standard model has been a victim of its own success, and can no longer accommodate many of the empirical findings of studies that it has motivated. An alternative is proposed: Working memory functions arise through the coordinated recruitment, via attention, of brain systems that have evolved to accomplish sensory-, representation-, and action-related functions. Evidence from behavioral, neuropsychological, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging studies, from monkeys and humans, is considered, as is the question of how to interpret delay-period activity in the prefrontal cortex.

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    • "This is in contrast to the reductionist perspective that a complex system can be fully understood by gaining knowl - edge of its isolated parts ( Kitano , 2002 ) . Many types of sys - tems reveal that its patterns are greater than the sum of its parts , such as ant colonies ( Solé , Miramontes , & Goodwin , 1993 ) , traffic patterns ( Schreckenberg , Schadschneider , Nagel , & Ito , 1995 ) , and psychological constructs such as working memory ( Postle , 2006 ) . With regard to the effects of swishing glucose , a simplis - tic depletion model cannot account for these findings in exer - cise endurance or in self - regulatory persistence . "
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    Personality and Social Psychology Review 07/2015; DOI:10.1177/1088868315597841 · 7.55 Impact Factor
    • "Maintenance of a feature in VWM involves sustained activation of feature-specific neural populations in sensory cortex (Harrison & Tong, 2009; Postle, 2006; Serences et al., 2009), which is likely to interact with subsequent sensory processing, biasing competition for selection in favor of the remembered feature (Bundesen, 1990; Desimone & Duncan, 1995; Duncan & Humphreys, 1989; Wolfe, 1994). Thus, attention will be drawn to objects containing the to-be-avoided feature, a consequence of the demand to remember which feature to avoid. "
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    ABSTRACT: Theories of attention and visual search explain how attention is guided toward objects with known target features. But can attention be directed away from objects with a feature known to be associated only with distractors? Most studies have found that the demand to maintain the to-be-avoided feature in visual working memory biases attention toward matching objects rather than away from them. In contrast, Arita, Carlisle, and Woodman (2012) claimed that attention can be configured to selectively avoid objects that match a cued distractor color, and they reported evidence that this type of negative cue generates search benefits. However, the colors of the search array items in Arita et al. (2012) were segregated by hemifield (e.g., blue items on the left, red on the right), which allowed for a strategy of translating the feature-cue information into a simple spatial template (e.g., avoid right, or attend left). In the present study, we replicated the negative cue benefit using the Arita et al. (2012), method (albeit within a subset of participants who reliably used the color cues to guide attention). Then, we eliminated the benefit by using search arrays that could not be grouped by hemifield. Our results suggest that feature-guided avoidance is implemented only indirectly, in this case by translating feature-cue information into a spatial template. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
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    • "Present results are in line with findings regarding frontal–parietal coherence increase. Similar to Jonides et al. (2008), Postle (2006) describes STM as an emergent property of frontal– posterior interactions. Sarnthein et al. (1998) obtained an increase in frontal–posterior theta coherence. "
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