Agency attribution is a hallmark of mind perception; thus, diminished attributions of agency may disrupt social-cognition processes typically elicited by human targets. The current studies examine the effect of perceivers’ sexist attitudes on associations of agency with, and neural responses to, images of sexualized and clothed men and women. In study 1, male (but not female) participants with higher hostile sexism scores more quickly associated sexualized women with first-person action verbs (“handle”) and clothed women with third-person action verbs (“handles”) than the inverse, as compared to their less sexist peers. In study 2, hostile sexism correlated negatively with activation of regions associated with mental state attribution—mPFC, posterior cingulate, temporal poles—but only when viewing sexualized women. Heterosexual men best recognized images of sexualized female bodies (but not faces), as compared with other targets’ bodies; however, neither face nor body recognition were related to hostile sexism, suggesting the fMRI findings are not explained by more or less attention to sexualized female targets. Diminished mental-state attribution is not unique to targets that people prefer to avoid, as in dehumanization of stigmatized people. The current studies demonstrate that appetitive social targets may elicit a similar response depending on perceivers’ attitudes toward them.
social cognition; theory of mind; sexism; fMRI
The current study investigates whether mere stereotypes are sufficient to modulate empathic responses to other people’s (mis)fortunes, how these modulations manifest in the brain, and whether affective and neural responses relate to endorsing harm against different outgroup targets. Participants feel least bad when misfortunes befall envied targets, and worst when misfortunes befall pitied targets, as compared to ingroup targets. Participants are also least willing to endorse harming pitied targets, despite pitied targets being outgroup members. However, those participants who exhibit increased activation in functionally-defined insula/MFG when viewing pity targets experience positive events not only report feeling worse about those events, but also more willing to harm pity targets in a tradeoff scenario. Similarly, increased activation in anatomically-defined bilateral anterior insula, in response to positive events, predicts increased willingness to harm envy targets, but decreased willingness to harm ingroup targets, above and beyond self-reported affect in response to the events. Stereotypes’ specific content, and not just outgroup membership, modulates empathic responses and related behavioral consequences including harm.
Neuroimaging work on multisensory conflict suggests that the relevant modality receives enhanced processing in the face of incongruency. However, the degree of stimulus processing in the irrelevant modality and the temporal cascade of the attentional modulations in either the relevant or irrelevant modalities are unknown. Here, we employed an audiovisual conflict paradigm with a sensory probe in the task-irrelevant modality (vision) to gauge the attentional allocation to that modality. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded as subjects attended to and discriminated spoken auditory letters while ignoring simultaneous bilateral visual letter stimuli that were either fully congruent, fully incongruent, or partially incongruent (one side incongruent, one congruent) with the auditory stimulation. Half of the audiovisual letter stimuli were followed 500-700 ms later by a bilateral visual probe stimulus. As expected, ERPs to the audiovisual stimuli showed an incongruency ERP effect (fully incongruent versus fully congruent) of an enhanced, centrally distributed, negative-polarity wave starting ~250 ms. More critically here, the sensory ERP components to the visual probes were larger when they followed fully incongruent versus fully congruent multisensory stimuli, with these enhancements greatest on fully incongruent trials with the slowest response times. In addition, on the slowest-response partially incongruent trials, the P2 sensory component to the visual probes was larger contralateral to the preceding incongruent visual stimulus. These data suggest that, in response to conflicting multisensory stimulus input, the initial cognitive effect is a capture of attention by the incongruent irrelevant-modality input, pulling neural processing resources toward that modality, resulting in rapid enhancement, rather than rapid suppression, of that input.
Functional MRI (fMRI) studies have linked the posteromedial cortex to episodic learning (encoding) and remembering (retrieval) processes. The posteromedial cortex is considered part of the default network and tends to deactivate during encoding, but activate during retrieval, a pattern known as the encoding/retrieval flip. Yet, the exact relationship between the neural correlates of memory performance (hit/miss) and memory stage (encoding/retrieval) and the extent of overlap with intrinsic cortical networks remains to be elucidated. Using task-based fMRI, we isolated the pattern of activity associated with memory performance, memory stage and the interaction between both. Using resting-state fMRI, we identified which intrinsic large-scale functional networks overlapped with regions showing task-induced effects. Our results demonstrated an effect of successful memory performance in regions associated with the control network and an effect of unsuccessful memory performance in the ventral attention network. We found an effect of memory retrieval in brain regions that span the default and control networks. Finally, we found an interaction between memory performance and memory stage in brain regions associated with the default network, including the posteromedial cortex, posterior parietal cortex and parahippocampal cortex. We discuss these findings in relation to the encoding/retrieval flip. In general, the findings demonstrate that task-induced effects cut across intrinsic cortical networks. Furthermore, regions within the default network display functional dissociations and this may have implications for the neural underpinnings of age-related memory disorders.
Aerobic fitness is associated with better memory performance as well as larger volumes in memory-related brain regions in children, adolescents, and elderly. It is unclear if aerobic exercise also influences learning and memory functional neural circuitry. Here, we examine brain activity in 17 high-fit (HF) and 17 low-fit (LF) adolescents during a subsequent memory encoding paradigm using fMRI. Despite similar memory performance, HF and LF youth displayed a number of differences in memory-related and default mode (DMN) brain regions during encoding later remembered versus forgotten word pairs. Specifically, HF youth displayed robust deactivation in DMN areas, including the ventral medial PFC and posterior cingulate cortex, whereas LF youth did not show this pattern. Furthermore, LF youth showed greater bilateral hippocampal and right superior frontal gyrus activation during encoding of later remembered versus forgotten word pairs. Follow-up task-dependent functional correlational analyses showed differences in hippocampus and DMN activity coupling during successful encoding between the groups, suggesting aerobic fitness during adolescents may impact functional connectivity of the hippocampus and DMN during memory encoding. To our knowledge, this study is the first to examine the influence of aerobic fitness on hippocampal function and memory-related neural circuitry using fMRI. Taken together with previous research, these findings suggest aerobic fitness can influence not only memory-related brain structure, but also brain function.
Everyday contextual settings create associations that later afford generating predictions about what objects to expect in our environment. The cortical network that takes advantage of such contextual information is proposed to connect the representation of associated objects such that seeing one object (bed) will activate the visual representations of other objects sharing the same context (pillow). Given this proposal, we hypothesized that the cortical activity elicited by seeing a strong contextual object would predict the occurrence of false memories whereby one erroneously “remembers” having seen a new object that is related to a previously presented object. To test this hypothesis, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging during encoding of contextually related objects, and later tested recognition memory. New objects that were contextually related to previously presented objects were more often falsely judged as “old” compared with new objects that were contextually unrelated to old objects. This phenomenon was reflected by activity in the cortical network mediating contextual processing, which provides a better understanding of how the brain represents and processes context.
Changes in memory function in elderly individuals are often attributed to dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). One mechanism for this dysfunction may be disruption of white matter tracts that connect the PFC with its anatomical targets. Here, we tested the hypothesis that white matter degeneration is associated with reduced prefrontal activation. We used white matter hyperintensities (WMH), a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) finding associated with cerebrovascular disease in elderly individuals, as a marker for white matter degeneration. Specifically, we used structural MRI to quantify the extent of WMH in a group of cognitively normal elderly individuals and tested whether these measures were predictive of the magnitude of prefrontal activity (fMRI) observed during performance of an episodic retrieval task and a verbal working memory task.
We also examined the effects of WMH located in the dorsolateral frontal regions with the hypothesis that dorsal PFC WMH would be strongly associated with not only PFC function, but also with areas that are anatomically and functionally linked to the PFC in a task-dependent manner. Results showed that increases in both global and regional dorsal PFC WMH volume were associated with decreases in PFC activity. In addition, dorsal PFC WMH volume was associated with decreased activity in medial temporal and anterior cingulate regions during episodic retrieval and decreased activity in the posterior parietal and anterior cingulate cortex during working memory performance. These results suggest that disruption of white matter tracts, especially within the PFC, may be a mechanism for age-related changes in memory functioning.
For decades, it has been assumed that sustained, elevated neural activity – the so-called active trace – is the neural correlate of the short-term retention of information. However, a recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study has suggested that this activity may be more related to attention than retention. Specifically, a multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) failed to find evidence that information that was outside the focus of attention, but nonetheless in short-term memory (STM), was retained in an active state. Here, we replicate and extend this finding by querying the neural signatures of attended vs. unattended information within STM with electroencephalograpy (EEG), a method sensitive to oscillatory neural activity. We demonstrate that in the delay-period EEG activity, there is information only about memory items which are also in the focus of attention. Information about items outside the focus of attention is not present. This result converges with the fMRI findings to suggest that, contrary to conventional wisdom, an active memory trace may be unnecessary for the short-term retention of information.
It is widely argued that the ability to recognize and identify manipulable objects depends on the retrieval and simulation of action-based information associated with using those objects. Evidence for that view comes from fMRI studies that have reported differential BOLD contrast in dorsal visual stream regions when participants view manipulable objects compared with a range of baseline categories. An alternative interpretation is that processes internal to the ventral visual pathway are sufficient to support the visual identification of manipulable objects and that the retrieval of object-associated use information is contingent on analysis of the visual input by the ventral stream. Here, we sought to distinguish these two perspectives by exploiting the fact that the dorsal stream is largely driven by magnocellular input, which is biased toward low spatial frequency visual information. Thus, any tool-selective responses in parietal cortex that are driven by high spatial frequencies would be indicative of inputs from the ventral visual pathway. Participants viewed images of tools and animals containing only low, or only high, spatial frequencies during fMRI. We find an internal parcellation of left parietal “tool-preferring” voxels: Inferior aspects of left parietal cortex are driven by high spatial frequency information and have privileged connectivity with ventral stream regions that show similar category preferences, whereas superior regions are driven by low spatial frequency information. Our findings suggest that the automatic activation of complex object-associated manipulation knowledge is contingent on analysis of the visual input by the ventral visual pathway.
Our outside world changes continuously, for example, when driving through traffic. An important question is how our brain deals with this constant barrage of rapidly changing sensory input, and flexibly selects only newly goal-relevant information for further, capacity-limited processing in working memory. The challenge our brain faces is experimentally captured by the attentional blink (AB): an impairment in detecting the second of two target stimuli presented in close temporal proximity among distracters. Many theories have been proposed to explain this deficit in processing goal-relevant information, with some attributing the AB to capacity limitations related to encoding of the first target, and others assigning a critical role to online selection mechanisms that control access to working memory. The current study examined the role of striatal dopamine in the AB, given its known role in regulating the contents of working memory. Specifically, subjects performed an AB task and their basal level of dopamine D2-like receptor binding was measured using positron emission tomography and [F-18]fallypride. As predicted, individual-differences analyses showed that greater D2-like receptor binding in the striatum was associated with a larger AB, implicating striatal dopamine and mechanisms that control access to working memory in the AB. Specifically, we propose that striatal dopamine may determine the AB by regulating the threshold for working memory updating, providing a testable physiological basis for this deficit in gating rapidly changing visual information. A challenge for current models of the AB lies in connecting more directly to these neurobiological data.
attentional blink; brain; dopamine; PET; working memory
Humans are able to continuously monitor environmental situations and adjust their behavioral strategies to optimize performance. Here we investigate the behavioral and brain adjustments that occur when conflicting stimulus elements are, or are not, temporally predictable. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were collected while manual-response variants of the Stroop task were performed in which the stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) between the relevant-color and irrelevant-word stimulus components were either randomly intermixed, or held constant, within each experimental run. Results indicated that the size of both the neural and behavioral effects of stimulus incongruency varied with the temporal arrangement of the stimulus components, such that the random-SOA arrangements produced the greatest incongruency effects at the earliest irrelevant-first SOA (−200 ms) and the constant-SOA arrangements produced the greatest effects with simultaneous presentation. These differences in conflict processing were accompanied by rapid (~150 ms) modulations of the sensory ERPs to the irrelevant distracter components when they occurred consistently first. These effects suggest that individuals are able to strategically allocate attention in time to mitigate the influence of a temporally predictable distracter. As these adjustments are instantiated by the subjects without instruction, they reveal a form of rapid strategic learning for dealing with temporally predictable stimulus incongruency.
Stroop task; conflict processing; event-related potentials (ERPs); incongruency; Stimulus Onset Asynchrony (SOA)
Posterior parietal cortex is thought to be involved in multisensory processes such as sensory weighting (how much different modalities are represented in sensory integration) and realignment (recalibrating the estimates given by unisensory inputs relative to each other, e.g., when viewing the hand through prisms). Sensory weighting and realignment are biologically independent but can be correlated such that the lowest-weighted modality realigns most. This is important for movement precision because it results in the brain’s estimate of hand position favoring the more reliable (higher-weighted) modality. It is unknown if this interaction is an emergent property of separate neural pathways for weighting and realignment or if it is actively mediated by a common substrate. We applied disruptive TMS to the angular gyrus near the intraparietal sulcus (PGa) before participants performed a task with misaligned visual and proprioceptive information about hand position. Visuoproprioceptive weighting and realignment were unaffected. However, the relationship between weighting and realignment, found in control conditions, was absent after TMS in the angular gyrus location. This suggests that a specific region in the angular gyrus actively mediates the interaction between visuoproprioceptive weighting and realignment and may thus play a role in the decreased movement precision associated with posterior parietal lesions.
Inhibitory control commonly recruits a number of frontal regions: pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA), frontal eye fields (FEFs), and right-lateralized posterior inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), dorsal anterior insula (DAI), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and inferior frontal junction (IFJ). These regions may directly implement inhibitory motor control or may be more generally involved in executive control functions. Two go/no-go tasks were used to distinguish regions specifically recruited for inhibition from those that additionally show increased activity with working memory demand. The pre-SMA and IFG were recruited for inhibition in both tasks and did not have greater activation for working memory demand on no-go trials, consistent with a role in inhibitory control. Activation in pre-SMA also responded to response selection demand and was increased with working memory on go trials specifically. The bilateral FEF and right DAI were commonly active for no-go trials. The FEF was also recruited to a greater degree with working memory demand on go trials and may bias top–down information when stimulus–response mappings change. The DAI, additionally responded to increased working memory demand on both go and no-go trials and may be involved in accessing sustained task information, alerting, or autonomic changes when cognitive demands increase. DLPFC activation was consistent with a role in working memory retrieval on both go and no-go trials. The inferior frontal junction, on the other hand, had greater activation with working memory specifically for no-go trials and may detect salient stimuli when the task requires frequent updating of working memory representations.
The face inversion effect has been used as a basis for claims about the specialization of face-related perceptual and neural processes. One of these claims is that the fusiform face area (FFA) is the site of face-specific feature-based and/or configural/holistic processes that are responsible for producing the face inversion effect. However, the studies on which these claims were based almost exclusively used stimulus manipulations of whole faces. Here, we tested inversion effects using single, discrete features and combinations of multiple discrete features, in addition to whole faces, using both behavioral and fMRI measurements. In agreement with previous studies, we found behavioral inversion effects with whole faces and no inversion effects with a single eye stimulus or the two eyes in combination. However, we also found behavioral inversion effects with feature combination stimuli that included features in the top and bottom halves (eyes-mouth and eyes-nose-mouth). Activation in the FFA showed an inversion effect for the whole-face stimulus only, which did not match the behavioral pattern. Instead, a pattern of activation consistent with the behavior was found in the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, which is a component of the extended face-preferring network. The results appear inconsistent with claims that the FFA is the site of face-specific feature-based and/or configural/holistic processes that are responsible for producing the face inversion effect. They are more consistent with claims that the FFA shows a stimulus preference for whole upright faces.
A central feature of auditory short-term memory is its item-limited processing capacity. We investigated whether auditory short-term memory capacity correlated with regional grey and white matter in the structural MRI images from 74 healthy adults, 40 of whom had a prior diagnosis of developmental dyslexia, while 34 had no history of any cognitive impairment. Using whole-brain statistics we identified a region in the left posterior superior temporal sulcus where grey matter density was positively correlated with forward digit-span, backward digit-span and performance on a “spoonerisms” task that required both auditory short-term memory and phoneme manipulation. Across tasks and participant groups, the correlation was highly significant even when variance related to reading and auditory non-word repetition was factored out. Although the dyslexics had poorer phonological skills, the effect of auditory short-term memory capacity in the left superior temporal sulcus was the same as in the cognitively normal group. We also illustrate that the anatomical location of this effect is in close proximity to a lesion site recently associated with reduced auditory short-term memory capacity in patients with stroke damage. This result therefore indicates that grey matter density in the posterior superior temporal sulcus predicts auditory short-term memory capacity in the healthy and damaged brain. In conclusion, we suggest that our present findings are consistent with the view that there is an overlap between the mechanisms that support language processing and auditory short-term memory.
The human brain possesses a remarkable capacity to interpret and recall novel sounds as spoken language. These linguistic abilities arise from complex processing spanning a widely distributed cortical network and are characterized by marked individual variation. Recently, graph theoretical analysis has facilitated the exploration of how such aspects of large-scale brain functional organization may underlie cognitive performance. Brain functional networks are known to possess small-world topologies characterized by efficient global and local information transfer, but whether these properties relate to language learning abilities remains unknown. Here we applied graph theory to construct large-scale cortical functional networks from cerebral hemodynamic (fMRI) responses acquired during an auditory pitch discrimination task and found that such network properties were associated with participants’ future success in learning words of an artificial spoken language. Successful learners possessed networks with reduced local efficiency but increased global efficiency relative to less successful learners and had a more cost-efficient network organization. Regionally, successful and less successful learners exhibited differences in these network properties spanning bilateral prefrontal, parietal, and right temporal cortex, overlapping a core network of auditory language areas. These results suggest that efficient cortical network organization is associated with sound-to-word learning abilities among healthy, younger adults.
In many everyday activities, we need to attend and encode multiple target objects among distractor objects. For example, when driving a car on a busy street, we need to simultaneously attend objects such as traffic signs, pedestrians, and other cars, while ignoring colorful and flashing objects in display windows. To explain how multiple visual objects are selected and encoded in visual short-term memory (VSTM) and in perception in general, the neural object file theory argues that whereas object selection and individuation is supported by inferior intra-parietal sulcus (IPS), the encoding of detailed object features that enables object identification is mediated by superior IPS and higher visual areas such as the lateral occipital complex (LOC). Nevertheless, because task-irrelevant distractor objects were never present in previous studies, it is unclear how distractor objects would impact neural responses related to target object individuation and identification. To address this question, in two fMRI experiments, we asked participants to encode target object shapes among distractor object shapes, with targets and distractors shown in different spatial locations and in different colors. We found that distractor-related neural processing only occurred at low, but not at high, target encoding load and impacted both target individuation in inferior IPS and target identification in superior IPS and LOC. However, such distractor-related neural processing was short-lived as it was only present during the VSTM encoding but not the delay period. Moreover, with spatial cuing of target locations in advance, distractor processing was attenuated during target encoding in superior IPS. These results are consistent with the load-theory of visual information processing. They also show that while inferior IPS and LOC were automatically engaged in distractor processing under low task load, with the help of precuing, superior IPS was able to only encode the task-relevant visual information.
The neural response to unpredictable auditory events is suggested to depend on frontotemporal interactions. We used magnetoencephalography in patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia to study change detection and to examine the impact of disease on macroscopic network connectivity underlying this core cognitive function. In patients, the amplitudes of auditory cortical responses to predictable standard tones were normal but were reduced for unpredictable deviant tones. Network connectivity, in terms of coherence among frontal, temporal, and parietal sources, was also abnormal in patients. In the beta frequency range, left frontotemporal coherence was reduced. In the gamma frequency range, frontal interhemispheric coherence was reduced whereas parietal interhemispheric coherence was enhanced. These results suggest impaired change detection resulting from dysfunctional frontotemporal interactions. They also provide evidence of a rostrocaudal reorganization of brain networks in disease. The sensitivity of magnetoencephalography to cortical network changes in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia enriches the understanding of neurocognitive systems as well as showing potential for studies of experimental therapies for neurodegenerative disease.
Emerging evidence suggests that motivation enhances episodic memory formation through interactions between medial temporal lobe (MTL) structures and dopaminergic midbrain. In addition, recent theories propose that motivation specifically facilitates hippocampal associative binding processes, resulting in more detailed memories that are readily reinstated from partial input. Here, we used high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine how motivation influences associative encoding and retrieval processes within human MTL subregions and dopaminergic midbrain. Participants intentionally encoded object associations under varying conditions of reward and performed a retrieval task during which studied associations were cued from partial input. Behaviorally, cued recall performance was superior for high-value relative to low-value associations; however, participants differed in the degree to which rewards influenced memory. The magnitude of behavioral reward modulation was associated with reward-related activation changes in dentate gyrus/CA2,3 during encoding and enhanced functional connectivity between dentate gyrus/CA2,3 and dopaminergic midbrain during both the encoding and retrieval phases of the task. These findings suggests that within the hippocampus, reward-based motivation specifically enhances dentate gyrus/CA2,3 associative encoding mechanisms through interactions with dopaminergic midbrain. Furthermore, within parahippocampal cortex and dopaminergic midbrain regions, activation associated with successful memory formation was modulated by reward across the group. During the retrieval phase, we also observed enhanced activation in hippocampus and dopaminergic midbrain for high-value associations that occurred in the absence of any explicit cues to reward. Collectively, these findings shed light on fundamental mechanisms through which reward impacts associative memory formation and retrieval through facilitation of MTL and VTA/SN processing.
Is morphology a discrete and independent element of lexical structure or does it simply reflect a fine-tuning of the system to the statistical correlation that exists among orthographic and semantic properties of words? Hebrew provides a unique opportunity to examine morphological processing in the brain because of its rich morphological system. In an fMRI masked priming experiment we investigated the neural networks involved in implicit morphological processing in Hebrew. In the lMFG and lIFG, activation was found to be significantly reduced when the primes were morphologically related to the targets. This effect was not influenced by the semantic transparency of the morphological prime, and was not found in the semantic or orthographic condition. Additional morphologically related decrease in activation was found in the lIPL although there, activation was significantly modulated by semantic transparency. Our findings regarding implicit morphological processing suggest that morphology is an automatic and distinct aspect of visually processing words. These results also coincide with the behavioral data previously obtained demonstrating the central role of morphological processing in reading Hebrew.
Is language processing universal? How do the specific properties of each language influence the way it is processed? In this study we compare the neural correlates of morphological processing in Hebrew – a Semitic language with a rich and systematic morphology, to those revealed in English – an Indo-European language with a linear morphology. Using fMRI we show that while in the bilingual brain both languages involve a common neural circuitry in processing morphological structure, this activation is significantly modulated by the different aspects of language. Whereas in Hebrew morphological processing is independent of semantics, in English morphological activation is clearly modulated by semantic overlap. These findings suggest that the processes involved in reading words are not universal, and therefore impose important constraints on current models of visual word recognition.
An increasingly large number of neuroimaging studies have investigated functionally connected networks during rest, providing insight into human brain architecture. Assessment of the functional qualities of resting state networks has been limited by the task-independent state, which results in an inability to relate these networks to specific mental functions. However, it was recently demonstrated that similar brain networks can be extracted from resting state data and data extracted from thousands of task-based neuroimaging experiments archived in the BrainMap database. Here, we present a full functional explication of these intrinsic connectivity networks at a standard low order decomposition using a neuroinformatics approach based on the BrainMap behavioral taxonomy as well as a stratified, data-driven ordering of cognitive processes. Our results serve as a resource for functional interpretations of brain networks in resting state studies and future investigations into mental operations and the tasks that drive them.
Neuroimaging data emphasize that older adults often show greater extent of brain activation than younger adults for similar objective levels of difficulty. A possible interpretation of this finding is that older adults need to recruit neuronal resources at lower loads than younger adults, leaving no resources for higher loads, and thus leading to performance decrements [Compensation-Related Utilization of Neural Circuits Hypothesis; e.g., Reuter-Lorenz, P. A., & Cappell, K. A. Neurocognitive aging and the compensation hypothesis. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 177–182, 2008]. The Compensation-Related Utilization of Neural Circuits Hypothesis leads to the prediction that activation differences between younger and older adults should disappear when task difficulty is made subjectively comparable. In a Sternberg memory search task, this can be achieved by assessing brain activity as a function of load relative to the individual’s memory span, which declines with age. Specifically, we hypothesized a nonlinear relationship between load and both performance and brain activity and predicted that asymptotes in the brain activation function should correlate with performance asymptotes (corresponding to working memory span). The results suggest that age differences in brain activation can be largely attributed to individual variations in working memory span. Interestingly, the brain activation data show a sigmoid relationship with load. Results are discussed in terms of Cowan’s [Cowan, N. The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 87–114, 2001] model of working memory and theories of impaired inhibitory processes in aging.
How do visual luminance, shape, motion, and depth bind together in the brain to represent
the coherent percept of a 3D object within hundreds of milliseconds (ms)? We provide evidence from
simultaneous magneto-encephalographic (MEG) and electro-encephalographic (EEG) data that perception
of 3D objects defined by luminance or motion elicits sequential activity in human visual cortices
within 500 ms. Following activation of the primary visual cortex around 100 ms, 3D objects elicited
sequential activity with only little overlap (dynamic 3D shapes: hMT- LO-vTemp, stationary 3D
shapes: LO-vTemp). A delay of 80 ms, both in MEG / EEG responses and in reaction times (RT), was
found when additional motion information was processed. We also found significant positive
correlations between RT, and MEG and EEG responses in the right temporal location. After about 400
ms, long lasting activity was observed in the parietal cortex and concurrently in previously
activated regions. Novel time-frequency analyses indicate that the activity in the Lateral Occipital
(LO) complex is associated with an increase of induced power in the gamma band, a hallmark of
binding. The close correspondence of an induced gamma response with concurrent sources located in LO
in both experimental conditions at different points in time (~200 ms for luminance and
~300 ms for dynamic cues) strongly suggests that LO is the key region for the assembly of
object features. The assembly is fed forward to achieve coherent perception of a 3D object within
When a word is preceded by a supportive context such as a semantically associated word or a strongly constraining sentence frame, the N400 component of the ERP is reduced in amplitude. An ongoing debate is the degree to which this reduction reflects a passive spread of activation across long-term semantic memory representations as opposed to specific predictions about upcoming input. We addressed this question by embedding semantically associated prime-target pairs within an experimental context that encouraged prediction to a greater or lesser degree. The proportion of related items was used to manipulate the predictive validity of the prime for the target while holding semantic association constant. A semantic category probe detection task was used to encourage semantic processing and to preclude the need for a motor response on the trials of interest. A larger N400 reduction to associated targets was observed in the high than the low relatedness proportion condition, consistent with the hypothesis that predictions about upcoming stimuli make a substantial contribution to the N400 effect. We also observed an earlier priming effect (205–240 ms) in the high proportion condition, which may reflect facilitation due to form-based prediction. In sum, the results suggest that predictability modulates N400 amplitude to a greater degree than the semantic content of the context.