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Human perception is highly flexible and adaptive. Selective processing is tuned dynamically according to current task goals and expectations to optimize behavior. Arguably, the major source of our expectations about events yet to unfold is our past experience; however, the ability of long-term memories to bias early perceptual analysis has remained untested. We used a noninvasive method with high temporal resolution to record neural activity while human participants detected visual targets that appeared at remembered versus novel locations within naturalistic visual scenes. Upon viewing a familiar scene, spatial memories changed oscillatory brain activity in anticipation of the target location. Memory also enhanced neural activity during early stages of visual analysis of the target and improved behavioral performance. Both measures correlated with subsequent target-detection performance. We therefore demonstrated that memory can directly enhance perceptual functions in the human brain.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





14952 - 14960


Adolescent, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Attention, Bias (Epidemiology), Brain Mapping, Cues, Electroencephalography, Evoked Potentials, Visual, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Long-Term, Orientation, Photic Stimulation, Reaction Time, Space Perception, Young Adult