Spatial Attention in Serial Order Working Memory: An EEG Study

Vesal Rasoulzadeh, Muhammet Ikbal Sahan, Jean-Philippe van Dijck, Elger Abrahamse, Anna Marzecova, Tom Verguts, Wim Fias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Theoretical models explaining serial order processing link order information to specified position markers. However, the precise characteristics of position marking have remained largely elusive. Recent studies have shown that space is involved in marking serial position of items in verbal working memory (WM). Furthermore, it has been suggested, but not proven, that accessing these items involves horizontal shifts of spatial attention. We used continuous electroencephalography recordings to show that memory search in serial order verbal WM involves spatial attention processes that share the same electrophysiological signatures as those operating on the visuospatial WM and external space. Accessing an item from a sequence in verbal WM induced posterior "early directing attention negativity" and "anterior directing attention negativity" contralateral to the position of the item in mental space (i.e., begin items on the left; end items on the right). In the frequency domain, we observed posterior alpha suppression contralateral to the position of the item. Our results provide clear evidence for the involvement of spatial attention in retrieving serial information from verbal WM. Implications for WM models are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2482–2493
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number5
Early online date11 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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