Flexible, capacity-limited activity of posterior parietal cortex in perceptual as well as visual short-term memory tasks.
It has recently been shown, using functional magnetic resonance imaging with a change detection paradigm, that activity in posterior parietal cortex (PPC) correlates with the limited number of objects held in visual short-term memory (VSTM). We replicate this finding and extend it to tasks that use similar stimuli, but without explicit memory requirements. As well as a perceptual task used previously (detecting an item at fixation), 2 additional tasks were designed to increase attentional demands across space (searching for a red item anywhere in the array) and across both space and time (detecting a staggered offset after prolonged viewing of the array). During the VSTM task, a capacity-limited set-size effect was seen in PPC as well as occipital and frontal regions. However, the PPC showed similar activity during 2 of the tasks not requiring VSTM. These findings cannot easily be explained by behavioral performance measures or memory demands alone, suggesting a role of the PPC in processing a limited number of discrete object representations, whether in the current perceptual scene or working memory. The differential influence of item load across perceptual tasks is consistent with task requirements affecting the form of these representations.