Retrospective selection in visual and tactile working memory is mediated by shared control mechanisms

Tobias Katus*, Martin Eimer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Selective attention regulates the activation of working memory (WM) representations. Retro-cues, presented after memory sample stimuli have been stored, modulate these activation states by triggering shifts of attention to task-relevant samples. Here, we investigated whether the control of such attention shifts is modality-specific or shared across sensory modalities. Participants memorized bilateral tactile and visual sample stimuli before an auditory retro-cue indicated which visual and tactile stimuli had to be retained. Critically, these cued samples were located on the same side or opposite sides, thus requiring spatially congruent or incongruent attention shifts in tactile and visual WM. To track the attentional selection of retro-cued samples, tactile and visual contralateral delay activities (tCDA and CDA components) were measured. Clear evidence for spatial synergy effects from attention shifts in visual WM on concurrent shifts in tactile WM were observed: Tactile WM performance was impaired, and tCDA components triggered by retro-cues were strongly attenuated on opposite-sides relative to same-side trials. These spatial congruency effects were eliminated when cued attention shifts in tactile WM occurred in the absence of simultaneous shifts within visual WM. Results show that, in contrast to other modality-specific aspects of WM control, concurrent attentional selection processes within tactile and visual WM are mediated by shared supramodal control processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-557
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number3
Early online date30 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Leverhulme Trust (grant RPG-2015370). We thank Laura Katus for proofreading the manuscript. Reprint requests should be sent to Tobias Katus, School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, AB24 3FX Aberdeen, United Kingdom, or via e-mail:


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