Visual salience improves spatial working memory via enhanced parieto-temporal functional connectivity

Valerio Santangelo, Emiliano Macaluso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In everyday life, the brain is bombarded with a multitude of concurrent and competing stimuli. Only some of these enter consciousness and memory. Attention selects relevant signals for in-depth processing depending on current goals, but also on the intrinsic properties of stimuli. We combined behavior, computational modeling, and functional imaging to investigate mechanisms supporting access to memorybased on intrinsic sensory properties. During fMRI scanning,humansubjects were presented with pictures of naturalistic scenes that entailed high levels of competition between possible target objects. Following a retention interval of 8 s, participants judged the location (same/different) of a target object extracted from the initial scene. We found that memory performance at retrieval increased with increasing object salience at encoding, indicating a "prior entry" for salient information. fMRI analyses revealed encoding-related activation in the posterior parietal cortex, selectively for salient objects that were later remembered. Moreover, parietal cortex showed increased functional coupling with the medial-temporal lobe, for remembered objects only. These findings reveal a parietotemporal circuit that integrates available sensory cues (based on attention-grabbing saliency signals) and current memory requirements (storing objects' locations) to encode object-related spatial information in working memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4110-4117
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Feb 27 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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