Neural interactions in working memory explain decreased recall precision and similarity-based feature repulsion

Jeffrey Johnson, Amanda van Lamsweerde, Evelina Dineva, John Spencer

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Over the last several years, the study of working memory (WM) for simple visual features (e.g., colors, orientations) has been dominated by perspectives that assume items in WM are stored independently of one another. Evidence has revealed, however, systematic biases in WM recall which suggest that items in WM interact during active maintenance. In the present study, we report two experiments that replicate a repulsion bias between metrically similar colors during active storage in WM. We also observed that metrically similar colors were stored with lower resolution than a unique color held actively in mind at the same time. To account for these effects, we report quantitative simulations of two novel neurodynamical models of WM. In both models, the unique behavioral signatures reported here emerge directly from laterally-inhibitory neural interactions that serve to maintain multiple, distinct neural representations throughout the WM delay period. Simulation results show that the full pattern of empirical findings was only obtained with a model that included an elaborated spatial pathway with sequential encoding of memory display items. We discuss implications of our findings for theories of visual working memory more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17756
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2022

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