Visual short-term memory capacity for simple and complex objects

Roy Luria*, Paola Sessa, Alex Gotler, Pierre Jolicoeur, Roberto Dell'Acqua

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does the capacity of visual short-term memory (VSTM) depend on the complexity of the objects represented in memory? Although some previous findings indicated lower capacity for more complex stimuli, other results suggest that complexity effects arise during retrieval (due to errors in the comparison process with what is in memory) that is not related to storage limitations of VSTM, per se. We used ERPs to track neuronal activity specifically related to retention in VSTM by measuring the sustained posterior contralateral negativity during a change detection task (which required detecting if an item was changed between a memory and a test array). The sustained posterior contralateral negativity, during the retention interval, was larger for complex objects than for simple objects, suggesting that neurons mediating VSTM needed to work harder to maintain more complex objects. This, in turn, is consistent with the view that VSTM capacity depends on complexity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)496-512
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Visual short-term memory capacity for simple and complex objects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this