On the dynamic role of attention in event-based prospective memory
Knight, Justin Bradley
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Event-based prospective memory (PM) refers to the reliance on an environmental cue to remember to complete a planned intention while being engaged in other unrelated activities. Prominent theories of prospective memory make competing assertions about the role of attentional control in detecting intention-related cues. As results thus far have been largely mixed, I utilized novel implementations of behavioral paradigms, EEG, and steady-state visual evoked potentials in a series of studies to further clarify the dependency of PM on preparatory attention. The current findings reveal early ERP modulations associated with preparatory attention when a perceptual PM cue was used, suggesting preparatory attention may operate from the outset of visual processing to facilitate processing of intention-relevant attributes. When preparatory attention was not relied upon, intention-related material was still noticed indicating more reflexive mechanisms, possibly supported by the hippocampus, can support detection of PM cues in some cases. In a final study, we found successful PM performance for intentions varying in specificity could result from dissociable anticipatory mechanisms. Prior to successfully detected cues, frontal ssVEP synchrony, intrinsic parietal gamma synchronization, and frontal to posterior interregional coherence were enhanced for ill- relative to well-specified cues. Further, the strength of coherence in this distributed network predicted fulfillment of the ill-specified intention but failure to fulfill the well-specified intention. Together these findings suggest that a dynamic relationship exist between preparatory attentional control and execution of future intentions which favors multicomponent theories of PM.