The extrastriate symmetry response is robust to variation in visual memory load

Yiovanna Derpsch*, Giulia Rampone, Andrea Piovesan, Marco Bertamini, Alexis Makin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


An Event Related Potential response to visual symmetry, known as the Sustained Posterior Negativity (SPN), is generated whether symmetry is task relevant or not, and whether symmetry is attended or not. However, no study has yet examined interference from concurrent memory tasks. To answer this fundamental question, we investigated whether the SPN is robust to variation in Visual Working Memory (VWM) load. In Experiment 1 (N = 24), each trial involved a sample display, a probe and a test display. Sample and test displays contained either four colors or four black shapes, and the probe was either a symmetrical or random pattern. We compared a memory task and a passive viewing task. In the memory task, participants held color or shape information in VWM when the probe was presented. In the passive viewing task, there were no memory demands. Contrary to our predictions, there was no evidence that VWM interfered with the symmetry response. Instead, there was a general SPN enhancement during both color and shape memory tasks compared to passive viewing. In Experiment 2 (N = 24), we used symmetrical patterns themselves as sample and test to maximize interference. Again, the SPN was enhanced in the memory task compared to passive viewing. We conclude that the visual symmetry response is not impaired by concurrent VWM tasks, even when these tasks involve remembering symmetry itself. It seems that the SPN is not only attention-proof, but also memory-proof. This adds to evidence that symmetry perception is robust and automatic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Issue number12
Early online date30 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2021


  • EEG
  • memory
  • sustained posterior negativity
  • symmetry
  • visual working memory


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