Short-term memory maintenance of object locations during active navigation: which working memory subsystem is essential?

Oliver Baumann, Ashley J Skilleter, Jason B Mattingley

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10 Citations (Scopus)
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The goal of the present study was to examine the extent to which working memory supports the maintenance of object locations during active spatial navigation. Participants were required to navigate a virtual environment and to encode the location of a target object. In the subsequent maintenance period they performed one of three secondary tasks that were designed to selectively load visual, verbal or spatial working memory subsystems. Thereafter participants re-entered the environment and navigated back to the remembered location of the target. We found that while navigation performance in participants with high navigational ability was impaired only by the spatial secondary task, navigation performance in participants with poor navigational ability was impaired equally by spatial and verbal secondary tasks. The visual secondary task had no effect on navigation performance. Our results extend current knowledge by showing that the differential engagement of working memory subsystems is determined by navigational ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e19707
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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