The three-embedded-component model of working memory (WM) distinguishes three representational states corresponding to three WM regions: activated long-term memory, direct-access region (DAR), and focus of attention. Recent neuroimaging research has revealed that access to the DAR is associated with enhanced hippocampal activity. Because the hippocampus mediates the encoding and retrieval of item–context associations, it has been suggested that this hippocampal activation is a consequence of the fact that item–context associations are particularly strong and accessible in the DAR. This study provides behavioral evidence for this view using an item-recognition task to assess the effect of non-intentional encoding and maintenance of item–location associations across WM regions. Five pictures of human faces were sequentially presented in different screen locations followed by a recognition probe. Visual cues immediately preceding the probe indicated the location thereof. When probe stimuli appeared in the same location that they had been presented within the memory set, the presentation of the cue was expected to elicit the activation of the corresponding WM representation through the just-established item–location association, resulting in faster recognition. Results showed this same-location effect, but only for items that, according to their serial position within the memory set, were held in the DAR.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
STM can be conceived as the expression of the WM system in situations in which performance does not significantly depend on the executive control mechanisms that generally play a decisive role in more prototypical WM tasks. From this perspective, WM represents a wider and more inclusive concept and that is why I will use this term throughout the paper. In any case, it is important to note that this study does not focus on the attentional mechanisms of executive control that makes WM different from STM, but on the memory component of WM, what Oberauer (2009) calls declarative WM.
I thank an anonymous reviewer for this observation.
Although this automatic, familiarity-based account seems plausible, alternative explanations cannot be ruled out. For example, participants could have strategically used item–location information to reduce the size of the memory search set in the same-location condition, whereas search-set size in the different-location condition was always five (I thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing out this possibility). This would lead to faster RTs in the same-location condition when item–location information was available. Importantly, the main conclusion from this view would remain the same because results would reveal that item–location information was selectively available for DAR items.
Allen, R. J., Vargha-Khadem, F., & Baddeley, A. D. (2014). Item-location binding in working memory: Is it hippocampus-dependent? Neuropsychologia, 59, 74–84.
Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1968). Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In K. W. Spence & J. T. Spence (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation: advances in research and theory (Vol. 2, pp. 89–195). New York: Academic Press.
Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. J. (1974). Working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 8, pp. 47–90). New York: Academic.
Baddeley, A. D., & Warrington, E. K. (1970). Amnesia and the distinction between long- and short-term memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 9, 176–189.
Braun, M., Weinrich, C., Finke, C., Ostendorf, F., Lehmann, T. N., & Ploner, C. J. (2011). Lesions affecting the right hippocampal formation differentially impair short-term memory of spatial and nonspatial associations. Hippocampus, 21, 309–318.
Burton, A. M., White, D., & McNeill, A. (2010). The glasgow face matching test. Behavior Research Methods, 42, 286–291. doi:10.3758/BRM.42.1.286.
Campoy, G. (2011). Retroactive interference in short-term memory and the word-length effect. Acta Psychologica, 138, 135–142.
Cave, C. B., & Squire, L. R. (1992). Intact verbal and nonverbal short-term memory following damage to the human hippocampus. Hippocampus, 2, 151–164.
Clark, I. A., & Maguire, E. A. (2016). Remembering preservation in hippocampal amnesia. Annual Review of Psychology, 67, 51–82.
Cowan, N. (1995). Attention and memory: an integrated framework. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cowan, N. (2001). The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 87–185.
Eichenbaum, H., Sauvage, M., Fortin, N., Komorowski, R., & Lipton, P. (2012). Towards a functional organization of episodic memory in the medial temporal lobe. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 36, 1597–1608.
Eichenbaum, H., Yonelinas, A. P., & Ranganath, C. (2007). The medial temporal lobe and recognition memory. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 30, 123–152.
Jeneson, A., Mauldin, K. N., Hopkins, R. O., & Squire, L. R. (2011). The role of the hippocampus in retaining relational information across short delays: The importance of memory load. Learning and Memory, 18, 301–305.
Jeneson, A., & Squire, L. R. (2012). Working memory, long-term memory, and medial temporal lobe function. Learning and Memory, 19, 15–25.
Jonides, J., & Nee, D. E. (2006). Brain mechanisms of proactive interference in working memory. Neuroscience, 139, 181–193.
Li, D., Cowan, N., & Saults, J. S. (2013). Estimating working memory capacity for lists of nonverbal sounds. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 75, 145–160.
Libby, L. A., Hannula, D. E., & Ranganath, C. (2014). Medial temporal lobe coding of item and spatial information during relational binding in working memory. Journal of Neuroscience, 34, 14233–14242.
Masson, M. E. J., & Loftus, G. R. (2003). Using confidence intervals for graphically based data interpretation. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 57, 203–220.
Monti, J. M., Cooke, G. E., Watson, P. D., Voss, M. W., Kramer, A. F., & Cohen, N. J. (2015). Relating hippocampus to relational memory processing across domains and delays. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27, 234–245.
Nee, D. E., & Jonides, J. (2011). Dissociable contributions of prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus to short-term memory: Evidence for a 3-state model of memory. Neuroimage, 54, 1540–1548.
Nee, D. E., & Jonides, J. (2013). Neural evidence for a 3-state model of visual short-term memory. Neuroimage, 74, 1–11.
Oberauer, K. (2002). Access to information in working memory: Exploring the focus of attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28, 411–421.
Oberauer, K. (2009). Design for a working memory. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), Psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 51, pp. 45–100). San Diego: Academic Press.
Olson, I. R., Page, K., Moore, K. S., Chatterjee, A., & Verfaellie, M. (2006). Working memory for conjunctions relies on the medial temporal lobe. Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 4596–4601.
Öztekin, I., Davachi, L., & McElree, B. (2010). Are representations in working memory distinct from representations in long-term memory? Neural evidence in support of a single store. Psychological Science, 21, 1123–1133.
Pertzov, Y., Miller, T. D., Gorgoraptis, N., Caine, D., Schott, J. M., Butler, C., & Husain, M. (2013). Binding deficits in memory following medial temporal lobe damage in patients with voltage-gated potassium channel complex antibody-associated limbic encephalitis. Brain, 136, 2474–2485.
Pollack, I., & Norman, D. A. (1964). A non-parametric analysis of recognition experiments. Psychonomic Science, 1, 125–126.
Ruchkin, D. S., Grafman, J., Cameron, K., & Berndt, R. S. (2003). Working memory retention systems: A state of activated long-term memory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 26, 709–777.
Schneider, W., Eschman, A., & Zuccolotto, A. (2002). E-Prime user’s guide. Pittsburgh: Psychology Software Tools Inc.
Squire, L. R., & Wixted, J. T. (2011). The cognitive neuroscience of human memory since H.M. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 34, 259–288.
Sternberg, S. (1966). High-speed scanning in human memory. Science, 153, 652–654.
Watson, P. D., Voss, J. L., Warren, D. E., Tranel, D., & Cohen, N. J. (2013). Spatial reconstruction by patients with hippocampal damage is dominated by relational memory errors. Hippocampus, 23, 570–580.
Wickelgren, W. A. (1968). Sparing of short-term memory in an amnesic patient: Implications for strength theory of memory. Neuropsychologia, 6, 235–244.
Yee, L. T. S., Hannula, D. E., Tranel, D., & Cohen, N. J. (2014). Short-term retention of relational memory in amnesia revisited: Accurate performance depends on hippocampal integrity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 16.
Yonelinas, A. P. (2013). The hippocampus supports high-resolution binding in the service of perception, working memory and long-term memory. Behavioral Brain Research, 254, 34–44.
This study was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project PSI2014-53427-P) and by the Agency for Science and Technology in the Region of Murcia (Seneca Foundation; project 19267/PI/14).
Conflict of interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Campoy, G. The special role of item–context associations in the direct-access region of working memory. Psychological Research 81, 982–989 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-016-0789-7
- Serial Position
- Work Memory
- Location Association
- Amnesic Patient
- Hippocampal Activation