Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Anthony A. Wright, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Beauchamp, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Timothy Ellmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Meisch, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anne Sereno, Ph.D.


Visual short-term memory (VSTM) is the storage of visual information over a brief time period (usually a few seconds or less). Over the past decade, the most popular task for studying VSTM in humans has been the change detection task. In this task, subjects must remember several visual items per trial in order to identify a change following a brief delay interval. Results from change detection tasks have shown that VSTM is limited; humans are only able to accurately hold a few visual items in mind over a brief delay. However, there has been much debate in regard to the structure or cause of these limitations. The two most popular conceptualizations of VSTM limitations in recent years have been the fixed-capacity model and the continuous-resource model. The fixed-capacity model proposes a discrete limit on the total number of visual items that can be stored in VSTM. The continuous-resource model proposes a continuous-resource that can be allocated among many visual items in VSTM, with noise in item memory increasing as the number of items to be remembered increases.

While VSTM is far from being completely understood in humans, even less is known about VSTM in non-human animals, including the rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta). Given that rhesus monkeys are the premier medical model for humans, it is important to understand their VSTM if they are to contribute to understanding human memory. The primary goals of this study were to train and test rhesus monkeys and humans in change detection in order to directly compare VSTM between the two species and explore the possibility that direct species comparison might shed light on the fixed-capacity vs. continuous-resource models of VSTM. The comparative results suggest qualitatively similar VSTM for the two species through converging evidence supporting the continuous-resource model and thereby establish rhesus monkeys as a good system for exploring neurophysiological correlates of VSTM.


visual short-term memory, change detection, rhesus monkeys, continuous-resource model, fixed-capacity model