Multimodal neuroimaging evidence linking memory and attention systems during visual search cued by context
Visual search can be facilitated by the learning of spatial configurations that predict the location of a target among distractors. Neuropsychological and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence implicates the medial temporal lobe (MTL) memory system in this contextual cueing effect, and electroencephalography (EEG) studies have identified the involvement of visual cortical regions related to attention. This work investigated two questions: (1) how memory and attention systems are related in contextual cueing; and (2) how these systems are involved in both short- and long-term contextual learning. In one session, EEG and fMRI data were acquired simultaneously in a contextual cueing task. In a second session conducted 1 week later, EEG data were recorded in isolation. The fMRI results revealed MTL contextual modulations that were correlated with short- and long-term behavioral context enhancements and attention-related effects measured with EEG. An fMRI-seeded EEG source analysis revealed that the MTL contributed the most variance to the variability in the attention enhancements measured with EEG. These results support the notion that memory and attention systems interact to facilitate search when spatial context is implicitly learned.