PhD student Dennis Dimond has a new paper just out in Cortex:

Visuospatial short-term memory (VSTM) is our ability to remember information about visual stimuli for a short period of time. VSTM is used on a day-to-day basis for things like spatial navigation, orientating objects, and mental imagery. Capacity for VSTM varies on a person-by-person basis, and individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Turner Syndrome often have difficulties with VSTM.

Understanding how brain structure relates to VSTM capacity in healthy adults can help us understand why VSTM skills vary across the population and why some individuals have relative difficulties.

In this study we investigated the relationship between VSTM and brain structure in healthy adults. To do this, we looked for associations between volume of specific brain areas, as seen in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain images, and performance on cognitive tasks. Surprisingly, we found that VSTM ability correlated with volume of the brain as a whole, rather than volume of regions responsible for vision and visual attention. These findings suggest that individual differences in VSTM may be related to differences in the overall size of the brain, rather than the size of specific areas.

Our findings provide novel insight into how the brain physically limits one’s visuospatial memory, which adds to our scientific understanding of the brain, and could have clinical implications in the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. 

AuthorSigne Bray