New paper: Remapping high-capacity, pre-attentive, fragile sensory memory

In this paper we provide evidence that sensory memory, a pre-attentive, high-capacity form of visuospatial working memory is updated across eye movements. This less well researched memory form is typically assumed to be destroyed during saccades. In the visual system, locations are largely coded in retinotopic (eye-centered) coordinates. Spatial remapping, the updating of retinotopic location coordinates of items in visuospatial memory, is typically assumed to be limited to robust, capacity-limited and attention-demanding working memory (WM). Are pre-attentive, maskable, sensory memory representations (e.g. fragile memory, FM) also remapped? We directly compared trans-saccadic WM (tWM) and trans-saccadic FM (tFM) in a retro-cue change-detection paradigm. Participants memorized oriented rectangles, made a saccade and reported whether they saw a change in a subsequent display. On some trials a retro-cue indicated the to-be-tested item prior to probe onset. This allowed sensory memory items to be included in the memory capacity estimate. The observed retro-cue benefit demonstrates a tFM capacity considerably above tWM. This provides evidence that some, if not all sensory memory was remapped to spatiotopic (world-centered, task-relevant) coordinates. In a second experiment, we show backward masks to be effective in retinotopic as well as spatiotopic coordinates, demonstrating that FM was indeed remapped to world-centered coordinates. Together this provides conclusive evidence that trans-saccadic spatial remapping is not limited to higher-level WM processes but also occurs for sensory memory representations.