Discrete capacity limits and neuroanatomical correlates of visual short-term memory for objects and spatial locations.


Working memory is responsible for keeping information in mind when it is no longer in view, linking perception with higher cognitive functions. Despite such crucial role, short‐term maintenance of visual information is severely limited. Research suggests that capacity limits in visual short‐term memory (VSTM) are correlated with sustained activity in distinct brain areas. Here, we investigated whether variability in the structure of the brain is reflected in individual differences of behavioral capacity estimates for spatial and object VSTM. Behavioral capacity estimates were calculated separately for spatial and object information using a novel adaptive staircase procedure and were found to be unrelated, supporting domain‐specific VSTM capacity limits. Voxel‐based morphometry (VBM) analyses revealed dissociable neuroanatomical correlates of spatial versus object VSTM. Interindividual variability in spatial VSTM was reflected in the gray matter density of the inferior parietal lobule. In contrast, object VSTM was reflected in the gray matter density of the left insula. These dissociable findings highlight the importance of considering domain‐specific estimates of VSTM capacity and point to the crucial brain regions that limit VSTM capacity for different types of visual information.

Human Brain Mapping