Motivation enhances visual working memory capacity through the modulation of central cognitive processes


  • The first (MS) and second (KI) authors contributed equally to this work.


Motivation is well known to enhance working memory (WM) capacity, but the mechanism underlying this effect remains unclear. The WM process can be divided into encoding, maintenance, and retrieval, and in a change detection visual WM paradigm, the encoding and retrieval processes can be subdivided into perceptual and central processing. To clarify which of these segments are most influenced by motivation, we measured ERPs in a change detection task with differential monetary rewards. The results showed that the enhancement of WM capacity under high motivation was accompanied by modulations of late central components but not those reflecting attentional control on perceptual inputs across all stages of WM. We conclude that the “state-dependent” shift of motivation impacted the central, rather than the perceptual functions in order to achieve better behavioral performances.