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The intraparietal sulcus (IPS) has been implicated in selective attention as well as visual short-term memory (VSTM). To contrast mechanisms of target selection, distracter filtering, and access to VSTM, we combined behavioral testing, computational modeling and functional magnetic resonance imaging. Sixteen healthy subjects participated in a change detection task in which we manipulated both target and distracter set sizes. We directly compared the IPS response as a function of the number of targets and distracters in the display and in VSTM. When distracters were not present, the posterior and middle segments of IPS showed the predicted asymptotic activity increase with an increasing target set size. When distracters were added to a single target, activity also increased as predicted. However, the addition of distracters to multiple targets suppressed both middle and posterior IPS activities, thereby displaying a significant interaction between the two factors. The interaction between target and distracter set size in IPS could not be accounted for by a simple explanation in terms of number of items accessing VSTM. Instead, it led us to a model where items accessing VSTM receive differential weights depending on their behavioral relevance, and secondly, a suppressive effect originates during the selection phase when multiple targets and multiple distracters are simultaneously present. The reverse interaction between target and distracter set size was significant in the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ), where activity was highest for a single target compared to any other condition. Our study reconciles the role of middle IPS in attentional selection and biased competition with its role in VSTM access.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1551 - 1562


Adult, Attention, Brain Mapping, Female, Humans, Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Models, Neurological, Parietal Lobe, Young Adult