The relationship between delay period eye movements and visuospatial memory.
Olsen RK., Chiew M., Buchsbaum BR., Ryan JD.
We investigated whether overt shifts of attention were associated with visuospatial memory performance. Participants were required to study the locations of a set of visual objects and subsequently detect changes to the spatial location of one of the objects following a brief delay period. Relational information regarding the locations among all of the objects could be used to support performance on the task (Experiment 1) or relational information was removed during test and location manipulation judgments had to be made for a singly presented target item (Experiment 2). We computed the similarity of the fixation patterns in space during the study phase to the fixations made during the delay period. Greater fixation pattern similarity across participants was associated with higher accuracy when relational information was available at test (Experiment 1); however, this association was not observed when the target item was presented in isolation during the test display (Experiment 2). Similarly, increased fixation pattern similarity on a given trial (within participants) was associated with successful task performance when the relations among studied items could be used for comparison (Experiment 1), but not when memory for absolute spatial location was assessed (Experiment 2). This pattern of behavior and performance on the two tasks suggested that eye movements facilitated memory for the relationships among objects. Shifts of attention through eye movements may provide a mechanism for the maintenance of relational visuospatial memory.