Neural mechanisms of working memory in the prefrontal cortex

author: Shintaro Funahashi, Kyoto University
published: Oct. 17, 2008,   recorded: September 2008,   views: 5492

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Working memory is a mechanism for short-term active maintenance of information as well as for processing maintained information. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) has been known to participate in working memory. The analysis of task-related DLPFC activity while monkeys performed a variety of working memory tasks revealed that delay-period activity is a neural correlate of a mechanism for temporary active maintenance of information, because this activity persisted throughout the delay period, showed selectivity to a particular visual feature, and was related to correct behavioral performances. On the other hand, information processing can be considered as a change of the information represented by a population of neurons during the progress of the trial. Using population vectors calculated by a population of task-related DLPFC activities, we demonstrated the temporal change of information represented by a population of DLPFC neurons during performances of spatial working memory tasks. Cross-correlation analysis using spike firings of simultaneously isolated pairs of neurons reveals widespread functional interactions among neighboring neurons, especially neurons having delay-period activity, and their dynamic modulation depending on the context of the trial. Functional interactions among neurons and their dynamic modulation could be a mechanism of information processing in the working memory processes.

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