Univerity of Wisconsin-Madison

Psychology 697 (a.k.a. lab meeting)
Cognitive Neuroscience of Working Memory
Fall 2012

In this course we emphasize the critical evaluation of topical issues and data in working memory research. Toward this end, we also emphasize the methods of neuroimaging, neuropsychology, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), electroencephalography (EEG), and experimental psychology.

Format: Each week we discuss (at least) one article from the recent literature.  These discussions are organized as informal presentations that will give us an opportunity to discuss and assess in detail the theory, methods, results, and interpretation associated with that particular paper.  On occasion, these discussions are supplemented with, or supplanted by, an informal presentation of the design and/or results from an experiment being conducted in the Postle laboratory (see section on "3 credits", below).  Following the discussion of a particular paper or project, we end the meeting with an attempt to integrate what we've learned from this specific information into the perspective of contemporary cognitive neuroscience inquiry.

Levels of participation: The class may be taken for 1 or 3 credits.  The requirements for 1-credit registrants are simply to come to class having read the assigned paper, and prepared to participate in the discussion. The additional requirements for 3-credit registrants are to participate in a research project in the Postle laboratory that entails at least 10 hr./wk. of research time during two consecutive semesters.  Availability of 3-credit option depends on current needs of the lab. The Fall-semester version of the course is Psychology 697, the Spring semester version is Psychology 618. The in-class presentations of 3-crediters typically focus on their own experiments.


Meeting time and placeFridays 9:55-10:45(ish) am, room 519 Psychology (unless otherwise noted)

InstructorBrad Postle, 515 Psychology, 262-4330,

Office hours: By appointment.

With the exception of time-sensitive emergencies, email is the most effective and preferred way for you to contact me.

All readings are either available for download at, or in hardcopy in room 266 during the week prior to class.

Background readings

Postle BR (2011). What underlies the ability to guide action with spatial information that is no longer present in the environment? In A. Vandierendonck and A. Szmalec (Eds.) Spatial Working Memory. Psychology Press (Hove, U.K.), 897-901

Lewis-Peacock JA, Postle BR (2012). Decoding the internal focus of attention.  Neuropsychologia, 50, 470-478.

September 7

No class - Memory Disorders Research Society meeting

September 14

Bays PM, Catalao RFG, Husain M (2009). The precision of visual working memory is set by allocation of a shared resource. Journal of Vision, 9, 1-11.

Zhang W, Luck SJ (2008). Discrete fixed-resolution representations in visual working memory. Nature, 453, 233-235.

September 21

Lepsien J, Thorton I, Norbe AC (2011). Modulation of working-memory maintenance by directed attention. Neuropsychologia, 49, 1569-1577.

September 28

Saalmann YB, Pinsk MA, Wang L, Li X, Kastner S (2012). The pulvinar regulates information transmission between cortical areas based on attention demands. Science, 337, 753-756.

October 5

SfN practice presentations

October 12

No class - SfN satellite conference "Coordinating Neural Activity Supporting Cognitive Processes"

October 19

No class - BP Travelling

October 26

Stokes M, Duncan J (In Press). Dynamic brain states for preparatory attention and working memory.

November 2

Wei Z, Wang XJ, Wang DH (2012). From distributed resources to limited slots in multiple-item working memory: A spiking network model with normalization. Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 11228-11240.

November 9

Carlisle NB, Arita JT, Pardo D, Woodman GF (2011). Attentional templates in visual working memory.Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 9315–9322.

November 16

No class - Annual conference of Psychonomics Society

November 23

No class - Thanksgiving

November 30

Salazar RF, Dotson NM, Bressler SL, Gray CM (2012). Content-specific fronto-parietal synchronization during visual working memory. Science, 338, 1097-1100.

December 7

No class - BP Travelling

December 14

No class

Next Semester

Cowan N, Blume CL, Saults JS (In Press). Attention to attributes and objects in working memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memeory, and Cognition.

van den Berg R, Shin H, Chou W-C, George R, Ma WJ (2012). Variability in encoding precision accounts for visual short-term memory limitations. PNAS, 109(22), 8780-8785.

Bey A, Leue S, Wienbruch C (2012). A neuronal network model for simulating the effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on local field potential power spectra. PLoS ONE, 7(11), e49097.

Vicente-Grabovetsky A, Carlin JD, Cusack R (2012). Strength of retinotopic representation of visual memories is modulated by strategy. Cerebral Cortex.

Capilla A, Schoffelen JM, Paterson G, Thut G, Gross J (2012). Dissociated alpha-band modulations in the dorsal and ventral visual pathways in visuospatial attention and perception. Cerebral Cortex.

Where to take complaints about a Teaching Assistant or Course Instructor:

Occasionally, a student may have a complaint about a TA or course instructor. If that happens, you should feel free to discuss the matter directly with the TA or instructor. If the complaint is about the TA and you do not feel comfortable discussing it with him or her, you should discuss it with the course instructor. If you do not want to approach the instructor, make an appointment to speak to the Department Chair, Professor Patricia Devine, by emailing:

If your complaint has to do with sexual harassment, you may also take your complaint to Vicky Lenzlinger, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, phone 262-0512 or email her at Her office is located on the second floor of the Psychology building, room 222.

If you believe the TA or course instructor has discriminated against you because of your religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background, you also may take your complaint to the Office of Equity and Diversity, room 179-A Bascom Hall, or go to:

Ethics of being a student in the Department of Psychology

The members of the faculty of the Department of Psychology at UW-Madison uphold the highest ethical standards of teaching and research. They expect their students to uphold the same standards of ethical conduct. By registering for this course, you are implicitly agreeing to conduct yourself with the utmost integrity throughout the semester.

In the Department of Psychology, acts of academic misconduct are taken very seriously. Such acts diminish the educational experience for all involved – students who commit the acts, classmates who would never consider engaging in such behaviors, and instructors. Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to, cheating on assignments and exams, stealing exams, sabotaging the work of classmates, submitting fraudulent data, plagiarizing the work of classmates or published and/or online sources, acquiring previously written papers and submitting them (altered or unaltered) for course assignments, collaborating with classmates when such collaboration is not authorized, and assisting fellow students in acts of misconduct. Students who have knowledge that classmates have engaged in academic misconduct should report this to the instructor.

For detailed information on how to avoid plagiarism, please see the following website:

Your instructor will contact you if s/he has concerns about academic misconduct. You will have an opportunity to explain your work and address your instructor’s concerns. Following the meeting, if your instructor believes that you engaged in misconduct, s/he will decide on an action. Following UW protocol, your instructor will inform the Dean of Students’ Office of the outcome of the meeting and proposed sanction. Penalties for substantiated cases of academic misconduct include a zero on the assignment or exam, a lower grade in the course, and failure in the course. Repeated acts of academic misconduct may result in more serious actions such as probation or suspension. For complete information on proper conduct, academic misconduct, and sanctions, please see UWS Chapter 14:

Pandemic/Catastrophic Readiness

In the event that this course is no longer able to meet face-to-face, students should be up to date with course readings and prepared to be evaluated on their knowledge/reading of these materials via email communication with the professor or the lab manager. These readings can be found on the lab website at under the “Lab Meeting” tab. All questions during any such event should be addressed to the lab manager, Michael Starrett ( In additions students should monitor the UW-Madison homepage for emergency information and updates.

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