Functional MRI and behavioral investigations of long-term memory-guided visuospatial attention
Real-world human visual perception is superb, despite pervasive attentional capacity limitations that can severely impact behavioral performance. Long-term memory (LTM) is suggested to play a key role in efficiently deploying attentional resources; however, the nature of LTM-attention interactions remains poorly understood. Here, I present a series of behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigations of the mechanisms of LTM-guided visual attention in 139 healthy participants (18-34 years). In Experiment 1, I hypothesized that humans can use memory to guide spatial attention to multiple discrete locations that have been previously studied. Participants were able to simultaneously attend to more than one spatial location using an LTM cue in a novel change-detection behavioral paradigm also used in fMRI Experiments 2 and 4. Cortical networks associated with LTM and attention often interact competitively. In Experiment 2, I hypothesized that the cognitive control network supports cooperation between LTM and attention. Three posterior regions involved with cognitive control were more strongly recruited for LTM-guided attention than stimulus-guided attention: the posterior precuneus, posterior callosal sulcus, and lateral intraparietal sulcus. In Experiment 3, I hypothesized that regions identified in Experiment 2 are specifically activated for LTM-guided attention, not for LTM retrieval or stimulus-guided attention alone. This hypothesis was supported. Taken together, the results of Experiments 2 and 3 identify a cognitive control subnetwork specifically recruited for LTM-guided attention. Experiment 4 tested how LTM-guided attention affected spatial responsivity of maps within intraparietal sulcus. I hypothesized that left parietal maps would change their spatial responsivity due to the left lateralized effects of memory retrieval. During stimulus-guided attention, contralateral visuotopic maps in the right but not left intraparietal sulcus responded to the full visual field. In contrast, during LTM-guided attention, maps in both the left and right intraparietal sulcus responded to the full visual field, providing evidence for complementary forms of dynamic recruitment under different attentional conditions. Together, these results demonstrate that LTM-guided attention is supported by a parietal subnetwork within the cognitive control network and that internal attentional states influence the spatial specificity of visuotopically mapped regions in parietal cortex.