Parietal structure and function explain human variation in working memory biases of visual attention

David Soto, Pia Rotshtein, Ryota Kanai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research indicates that human attention appears inadvertently biased by items that match the contents of working memory (WM). WM-biases can lead to attentional costs when the memory content matches goal-irrelevant items and to attentional benefits when it matches the sought target. Here we used functional and structural MRI data to determine the neural basis of human variation in WM biases. We asked whether human variation in WM-benefits and WM-costs merely reflects the process of attentional capture by the contents of WM or whether variation in WM biases may be associated with distinct forms of cognitive control over internal WM signals based on selection goals. Human ability to use WM contents to facilitate selection was positively correlated with gray matter volume in the left superior posterior parietal cortex (PPC), while the ability to overcome interference by WM-matching distracters was associated with the left inferior PPC in the anterior IPS. Functional activity in the left PPC, measured by functional MRI, also predicted the magnitude of WM-costs on selection. Both structure and function of left PPC mediate the expression of WM biases in human visual attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-296
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Glyn W. Humphreys for his continued support. This work has been funded by a grant from the Medical Research Council (UK , 89631 ).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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