Perceptual coupling and decoupling are associated with individual differences in working memory encoding and maintenance

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Working memory (WM) allows goal-relevant information to be encoded and maintained in mind, even when the contents of WM are incongruent with the immediate environment. While regions of heteromodal cortex are important for WM, the neural mechanisms that relate to individual differences in the encoding and maintenance of goal-relevant information remain unclear. Here, we used behavioural correlates of two large-scale heteromodal networks at rest, the default mode (DMN) and frontoparietal (FPN) networks, to understand their contributions to distinct features of WM. We assessed each individual’s ability to resist distracting information during the encoding and maintenance phases of a visual WM task. Individuals with stronger connectivity of DMN with medial visual and retrosplenial cortex were less affected by encoding distraction. Conversely, weaker connectivity of both DMN and FPN with visual regions was associated with better WM performance when target information was no longer in the environment and distractors were presented in the maintenance phase. Our study suggests that stronger coupling between heteromodal cortex and visual-spatial regions supports WM encoding by reducing the influence of concurrently-presented distractors, while weaker visual coupling is associated with better maintenance of goal-relevant information because it relates to the capacity to ignore task-irrelevant changes in the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalCerebral Cortex
Early online date28 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jan 2022

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