Auditory Short-Term Memory Behaves Like Visual Short-Term Memory

<div><p>Are the information processing steps that support short-term sensory memory common to all the senses? Systematic, psychophysical comparison requires identical experimental paradigms and comparable stimuli, which can be challenging to obtain across modalities. Participants performed a recognition memory task with auditory and visual stimuli that were comparable in complexity and in their neural representations at early stages of cortical processing. The visual stimuli were static and moving Gaussian-windowed, oriented, sinusoidal gratings (Gabor patches); the auditory stimuli were broadband sounds whose frequency content varied sinusoidally over time (moving ripples). Parallel effects on recognition memory were seen for number of items to be remembered, retention interval, and serial position. Further, regardless of modality, predicting an item's recognizability requires taking account of (1) the probe's similarity to the remembered list items (summed similarity), and (2) the similarity between the items in memory (inter-item homogeneity). A model incorporating both these factors gives a good fit to recognition memory data for auditory as well as visual stimuli. In addition, we present the first demonstration of the orthogonality of summed similarity and inter-item homogeneity effects. These data imply that auditory and visual representations undergo very similar transformations while they are encoded and retrieved from memory.</p> </div>

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