Eye movement-related confounds in neural decoding of visual working memory representations Abbreviated

Pim Mostert, Anke Marit Albers, Loek Brinkman, Larissa Todorova, Peter Kok, Floris P. de Lange

Research output: Working paperPreprintAcademic


The study of visual working memory (VWM) has recently seen revitalization with the emergence of new insights and theories regarding its neural underpinnings. One crucial ingredient responsible for this progress is the rise of neural decoding techniques. These techniques promise to uncover the representational contents of neural signals, as well as the underlying code and the dynamic profile thereof. Here, we aimed to contribute to the field by subjecting human volunteers to a combined VWM/imagery task, while recording and decoding their neural signals as measured by MEG. At first sight, the results seem to provide evidence for a persistent, stable representation of the memorandum throughout the delay period. However, control analyses revealed that these findings can be explained by subtle, VWM-specific eye movements. As a potential remedy, we demonstrate the use of a functional localizer, which was specifically designed to target bottom-up sensory signals and as such avoids eye movements, to train the neural decoders. This analysis revealed a sustained representation for approximately 1 second, but no longer throughout the entire delay period. We conclude by arguing for more awareness of the potentially pervasive and ubiquitous effects of eye movement-related confounds.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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