Functional imaging reveals working memory and attention interact to produce the attentional blink

Stephen J Johnston, David E J Linden, Kimron L Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
246 Downloads (Pure)


If two centrally presented visual stimuli occur within approximately half a second of each other, the second target often fails to be reported correctly. This effect, called the attentional blink (AB; Raymond, J. E., Shapiro, K. L., & Arnell, K. M. Temporary suppression of visual processing in an RSVP task: An attentional blink? Journal of Experimental Psychology, Human Perception and Performance, 18, 849-860, 1992], has been attributed to a resource "bottleneck," likely arising as a failure of attention during encoding into or retrieval from visual working memory (WM). Here we present participants with a hybrid WM-AB study while they undergo fMRI to provide insight into the neural underpinnings of this bottleneck. Consistent with a WM-based bottleneck account, fronto-parietal brain areas exhibited a WM load-dependent modulation of neural responses during the AB task. These results are consistent with the view that WM and attention share a capacity-limited resource and provide insight into the neural structures that underlie resource allocation in tasks requiring joint use of WM and attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-38
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date21 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


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