Visual Working Memory Representations Across Eye Movements
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We live in a rich visual world that we experience as a seamless and detailed stream of continuous information. However, we can only attend to and remember a small portion of our visual environment. The visual system is tasked with stitching together snapshots of the world through near constant eye movements, with around three saccades per second. The situation is further complicated with the visual system being contralaterally organized. Each eye movement can bring items in our environment into a different visual hemifield. Despite the many challenges and limitations of attention and the visual system, how does the brain stitch together our experience of our visual environment? One potential mechanism that could contribute to our conscious perception of a continuous visual experience could be visual working memory (VWM) working to maintain representations of items across saccades. Electrophysiological activity using event-related potentials has revealed the contralateral delay activity (CDA), which is a sustained negativity contralateral to the side of the visual field where subjects are attending. However, how does this work if we are constantly moving our eyes? How do we form a stable representation of items across eye movements? Does the representation transfer over to the other side of the brain, constantly shuffling the items between the hemispheres? Or does it stay in the hemisphere contralateral to the visual field where the items were located when we originally created the representation? The consequences of eye movements need to be examined at multiple levels and time points throughout the process. The goal of my doctoral dissertation is to investigate VWM representations throughout the dynamic peri-saccadic window. In Experiment 1, I will first compare VWM representations across shifts of attention and eye position. With the focus on the effect of maintaining attention on items across eye movements, Experiment 2 will also explore eye movements both towards and away from attended visual hemifields. Finally, Experiment 3 is designed to substantiate our use of the CDA as a tool for examining VWM representations across eye movements by confirming that the CDA is indeed established in retinotopic coordinates.