Forced to remember: When memory is biased by salient information

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The last decades have seen a rapid growing in the attempt to understand the key factors involved in the internal memory representation of the external world. Visual salience have been found to provide a major contribution in predicting the probability for an item/object embedded in a complex setting (i.e., a natural scene) to be encoded and then remembered later on. Here I review the existing literature highlighting the impact of perceptual- (based on low-level sensory features) and semantics-related salience (based on high-level knowledge) on short-term memory representation, along with the neural mechanisms underpinning the interplay between these factors. The available evidence reveal that both perceptual- and semantics-related factors affect attention selection mechanisms during the encoding of natural scenes. Biasing internal memory representation, both perceptual and semantics factors increase the probability to remember high- to the detriment of low-saliency items. The available evidence also highlight an interplay between these factors, with a reduced impact of perceptual-related salience in biasing memory representation as a function of the increasing availability of semantics-related salient information. The neural mechanisms underpinning this interplay involve the activation of different portions of the frontoparietal attention control network. Ventral regions support the assignment of selection/encoding priorities based on high-level semantics, while the involvement of dorsal regions reflects priorities assignment based on low-level sensory features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - Apr 5 2015


  • Attention
  • FMRI
  • Natural scenes
  • Salience
  • Semantics
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)


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