Dissociating the neural mechanisms of memory-based guidance of visual selection

David Soto, Glyn W. Humphreys, Pia Rotshtein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visual selection is influenced by items in working memory (WM) and priming from implicit memory when a stimulus is repeated across time. WM effects are typically held to be top-down in nature [Soto D, Heinke D, Humphreys GW, Blanco MJ (2005) J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 31:248-261], whereas implicit priming may operate in a bottom-up manner [Theeuwes J, Reimann B, Mortier K (2006) Vis Cogn 14: 466-489]. How WM and implicit priming affects influence visual selection remains poorly understood, however. Here, we report functional MRI evidence that dissociates the neural mechanisms involved in these memory-based effects on selection. The reappearance of a stimulus held in WM enhanced activity in superior frontal gyrus, midtemporal, and occipital areas that are known to encode the prior occurrence of stimuli. In contrast, mere stimulus repetition elicited a suppressive response in the same regions. An additional finding was that a frontothalamic network was sensitive to the behavioral relevance of a match between the contents of WM and the visual search array, enhancing activity when the contents of WM matched the critical target of selection. Items held in WM influence selection by using neural coding distinct to effects of mere repetition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17186-17191
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - 23 Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior prefrontal cortex: BA10
  • Repetition priming
  • Thalamus
  • Working memory
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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