Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the right superior parietal lobule modulates the retro-cue benefit in visual short-term memory

Fabiano Botta, Juan Lupiáñez, Valerio Santangelo, Elisa Martín-Arévalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several studies have shown enhanced performance in change detection tasks when spatial cues indicating the probe’s location are presented after the memory array has disappeared (i.e., retro-cues) compared with spatial cues that are presented simultaneously with the test array (i.e., post-cues). This retro-cue benefit led some authors to propose the existence of two different stores of visual short-term memory: a weak but high-capacity store (fragile memory (FM)) linked to the effect of retro-cues and a robust but low-capacity store (working memory (WM)) linked to the effect of post-cues. The former is thought to be an attention-free system, whereas the latter would strictly depend on selective attention. Nonetheless, this dissociation is under debate, and several authors do not consider retro-cues as a proxy to measure the existence of an independent memory system (e.g., FM). We approached this controversial issue by altering the attention-related functions in the right superior parietal lobule (SPL) by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), whose effects were mediated by the integrity of the right superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF). Specifically, we asked whether TMS on the SPL affected the performance of retro cues vs. post-cues to a similar extent. The results showed that TMS on the SPL, mediated by right SLF-III integrity, produced a modulation of the retro-cue benefit, namely a memory capacity decrease in the post-cues but not in the retro-cues. These findings have strong implications for the debate on the existence of independent stages of visual short-term memory and for the growing literature showing a key role of the SLF for explaining the variability of TMS effects across participants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number252
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Spatial attention
  • Superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF)
  • Superior parietal lobe (SPL)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Visual short-term memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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