Cognitive Mechanisms of Encoding and Maintaining Spatial Information in Working Memory


  • Mila Taškovska University of Ljubljana
  • Nina Purg Suljič University of Ljubljana
  • Anka Slana Ozimič University of Ljubljana
  • Grega Repovš University of Ljubljana



Spatial working memory is crucial for orientation and interaction with the environment, yet its precise neurocognitive mechanisms are still not fully understood [1]. Research shows [2] that people use different strategies to encode and maintain information in working memory, resulting in different patterns of behaviour and associated brain mechanisms. However, the question remains what the purpose of each strategy is and how it varies according to the task demands. The understanding of the diverse working memory strategies requires the integration of findings from different fields of research and the development of new behavioural paradigms that allow for the separate testing of individual strategies. In this study, we aim to examine the behavioral expression of different encoding and maintenance mechanisms used in spatial working memory [3].


Thirty healthy participants, 18-30 years old and of both sexes, will perform a spatial working memory task. Inclusion criteria include normal or corrected-to-normal vision, right-handedness, no psychiatric, neurological, or chronic diseases, and no psychoactive substance use. The task will assess participants’ ability to retain the location of a visually presented dot over a short period of time using different coding strategies. We will compare egocentric and allocentric coding, where the stimulus location will have to be remembered in relation to the direction of gaze or independent of the gaze fixation, respectively. For sensory and motor coding, the predictability of the response direction will vary. In the motor condition, participants will be able to predict the response direction and form a motor plan. In the sensory condition, the response direction will be unpredictable and participants will need to rely on sensory information. The task will be performed on a computer and an eye tracker will be used to record eye movements. After the performance of the task, participants will complete a questionnaire about their memory strategies.

Expected Results

In data analysis, we will focus on comparing behavioral performance in reporting the maintained stimulus position across different coding strategies. We will also relate behavioral results to participants' subjective experiences of using different memory strategies [2]. We hypothesize that the pattern of participants' behavioral performance will vary across different task conditions, reflecting the diverse cognitive demands of each strategy. The goal of our study is to deepen the understanding of spatial working memory with an emphasis on clarifying its cognitive mechanisms.


[1]  G. Repovš and A. Baddeley, “The multi-component model of working memory: Explorations in experimental cognitive psychology,” Neuroscience, vol. 139, no. 1, pp. 5–21, Apr. 2006, doi:

[2]  A. Slana Ozimič, A. Oblak, Urban Kordeš, N. Purg, J. Bon, and Grega Repovš, “The Diversity of Strategies Used in Working Memory for Colors, Orientations, and Positions: A Quantitative Approach to a First‐Person Inquiry,” Cognitive science, vol. 47, no. 8, Aug. 2023, doi: 

[3]  N. Purg, M. Starc, A. Slana Ozimič, A. Kraljič, A. Matkovič, and G. Repovš, “Neural Evidence for Different Types of Position Coding Strategies in Spatial Working Memory,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 16, Apr. 2022, doi: