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The effect of gaze direction on the different components of visuo-spatial short-term memory

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Cerebral asymmetries and cortical regions associated with the upper and lower visual field were investigated using shifts of gaze. Earlier research suggests that gaze shifts to the left or right increase activation of specific areas of the contralateral hemisphere. We asked whether looking at one quadrant of the visual field facilitates the recall in various visuo-spatial tasks. The different components of visuo-spatial memory were investigated by probing memory for a stimulus matrix in each quadrant of the screen. First, memory for visual images or patterns was probed with a matrix of squares that was simultaneously presented and had to be reconstructed by mouse click. Better memory performance was found in the upper left quadrant compared to the three other quadrants indicating that both laterality and elevation are important. Second, positional memory was probed by subsequently presenting squares which prevented the formation of a visual image. Again, we found that gaze to the upper left facilitated performance. Third, memory for object-location binding was probed by asking observers to associate objects to particular locations. Higher performance was found with gaze directed to the lower quadrants irrespective of lateralization, confirming that only some components of visual short-term memory have shared neural substrates.
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Keywords: Gaze direction; Hemispheric asymmetries; Object-location binding; Positional memory; Unilateral gaze; Visuo-spatial short-term memory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l’Éducation, Université de Genève, Genève, Switzerland

Publication date: November 2, 2015

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