The study is similar to one published this month in Nature and led by Vanderbilt University neuroscientist Frank Tong and colleagues, who were able to predict with 80-percent-plus accuracy which patterns individuals held in memory 11 seconds after seeing a stimulus.
"Their paper makes a very similar point to ours," Awh said, "though they did not vary which 'dimension' of the stimulus people chose to remember, and they did not compare the pattern of activity during sensory processing and during memory. They showed that they could look at brain activity to classify which orientation was being stored in memory."
What Awh and colleagues found was that the sensory area of the brain had a pattern of activity that represented only an individual's intentionally stored aspect of the stimulus. This voluntary control in memory selection, Awh said, falls in line with previous research, including that done by Awh and co-author Edward K. Vogel, also of the UO, that there is limited capacity for what can be stored at one time. People choose what is important and relevant to them, Awh said.
"Basically, our study shows that information about the precise feature a person is remembering is represented in the visual cortex," Serences said, "This is important because it demonstrates that people recruit the same neural machinery during memory as they do when they see a stimulus."
That demonstration, Awh said, supports the sensory recruitment hypothesis, which suggests the same parts of the brain are involved in perception of a stimulus and memory storage.
A fourth co-author with Awh, Serences and Vogel was Edward F. Ester, a UO doctoral student. Serences was w
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University of Oregon