Working memory

Principle investigator:

Daniel Schneider

Many situations in todays working environments involve high demands on information processing. For example, controlling a vehicle in complex driving situations or working with a computer is associated with the simultaneous analysis of many perceptual inputs. These challenging demands are faced by a processing system that is limited in capacity. Research in the field of visuo-spatial information processing showed that only three up to four stimuli could be simultaneously maintained in the so-called working memory. Working memory enables the active maintenance of transient information and the access to this information in order to preform higher-level cognitive processes. Therefore, the representation of relevant information in working memory is crucial for a goal-directed interaction with our environment.

The Junior Group ‘Working Memory’ investigates the neural mechanisms underlying the active maintenance of behaviorally relevant information in working memory. In the first place the selection of perceptual information is examined. Prior research related to the field ‘information processing’ at IfADo concentrated on investigating selective attentional mechanisms and how so-called attentional sets guarantee the transfer of perceptual information into mental representations.

Current theories, however suggest that apart from the selection of perceptual information, attention can be focused on mental representations in working memory. This ensures the updating of relevant working memory contents and thus the flexible adaptation of behavior to a dynamic environment. It is assumed that focusing on actively maintained representations in working memory leads to a protection of relevant information from decay and interference with newly incoming information. Non-attended information is transferred into more fragile working memory representations. On the basis of these findings, the Junior Group ‘Working Memory’ focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying selective information processing and working memory updating.

As working memory has a central role for higher cognition, the investigation of the above-mentioned mechanisms could also help to learn more about the origins of interindividual differences in cognitive performances. In this context the Junior Group is interested in the effect of cognitive aging on working memory performances, especially the decline in inhibitory control with advancing age.


  • Mertes, C., Wascher, E., & Schneider, D. (2017). Compliance instead of flexibility? On age-related differences in cognitive control during visual search. Neurobiol Aging. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2017.02.003
  • Schneider, D., Barth, A., Getzmann, S., & Wascher, E. (2017). On the neural mechanisms underlying the protective function of retroactive cuing against perceptual interference: Evidence by event-related potentials of the EEG. Biol Psychol, 124, 47-56. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.01.006
  • Mertes, C., Wascher, E., & Schneider, D. (2016). From Capture to Inhibition: How does Irrelevant Information Influence Visual Search? Evidence from a Spatial Cuing Paradigm. Front Hum Neurosci, 10, 232. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00232
  • Schneider, D., Mertes, C., & Wascher, E. (2016). The time course of visuo-spatial working memory updating revealed by a retro-cuing paradigm. Sci Rep, 6, 21442. doi:10.1038/srep21442
  • Mertes, C., Wascher, E., & Schneider, D. (2016). From Capture to Inhibition: How does Irrelevant Information Influence Visual Search? Evidence from a Spatial Cuing Paradigm. Front Hum Neurosci, 10, 232. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2016.00232
  • Schneider, D., Mertes, C., & Wascher, E. (2015). On the fate of non-cued mental representations in visuo-spatial working memory: Evidence by a retro-cuing paradigm. Behav Brain Res, 293, 114-124. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.07.034
  • Schneider, D. (2015). Committing Errors as a Consequence of an Adverse Focus of Attention. In M. Raab, B. Lobinger, S. Hoffmann, A. Pizzera, & S. Laborde (Eds.), Performance Psychology – Perception, Action, Cognition, and Emotion (1 ed.): Academic Press
  • Wascher, E., Schneider, D., & Hoffmann, S. (2015). Does response selection contribute to inhibition of return? Psychophysiology, 52(7), 942-950. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12420
  • Schneider, D., Hoffmann, S., & Wascher, E. (2014). Sustained posterior contralateral activity indicates re-entrant target processing in visual change detection: an EEG study. Front Hum Neurosci, 8, 247. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00247
  • Schneider, D., & Wascher, E. (2013). Mechanisms of target localization in visual change detection: an interplay of gating and filtering. Behav Brain Res, 256, 311-319. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.08.046
  • Wascher, E., Schneider, D., Hoffmann, S., Beste, C., & Sanger, J. (2012). When compensation fails: attentional deficits in healthy ageing caused by visual distraction. Neuropsychologia, 50(14), 3185-3192. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.09.033
  • Schneider, D., Beste, C., & Wascher, E. (2012b). On the time course of bottom-up and top-down processes in selective visual attention: an EEG study. Psychophysiology, 49(11), 1492-1503. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01462.x
  • Schneider, D., Beste, C., & Wascher, E. (2012a). Attentional capture by irrelevant transients leads to perceptual errors in a competitive change detection task. Front Psychol, 3, 164. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00164
  • Beste, C., Schneider, D., Epplen, J. T., & Arning, L. (2011). The functional BDNF Val66Met polymorphism affects functions of pre-attentive visual sensory memory processes. Neuropharmacology, 60(2-3), 467-471. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2010.10.028