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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

November 2019, Vol. 31, No. 11, Pages 1689-1698
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01446)
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Contralateral Delay Activity Tracks the Sequential Loading of Objects into Visual Working Memory, Unlike Lateralized Alpha Oscillations
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Visual working memory temporarily represents a continuous stream of task-relevant objects as we move through our environment performing tasks. Previous work has identified candidate neural mechanisms of visual working memory storage; however, we do not know which of these mechanisms enable the storage of objects as we sequentially encounter them in our environment. Here, we measured the contralateral delay activity (CDA) and lateralized alpha oscillations as human subjects were shown a series of objects that they needed to remember. The amplitude of CDA increased following the presentation of each to-be-remembered object, reaching asymptote at about three to four objects. In contrast, the concurrently measured lateralized alpha power remained constant with each additional object. Our results suggest that the CDA indexes the storage of objects in visual working memory, whereas lateralized alpha suppression indexes the focusing of attention on the to-be-remembered objects.