Microstimulation of frontal cortex can reorder a remembered spatial sequence

PLoS Biol. 2006 May;4(5):e134. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040134. Epub 2006 Apr 25.


Complex goal-directed behaviors extend over time and thus depend on the ability to serially order memories and assemble compound, temporally coordinated movements. Theories of sequential processing range from simple associative chaining to hierarchical models in which order is encoded explicitly and separately from sequence components. To examine how short-term memory and planning for sequences might be coded, we used microstimulation to perturb neural activity in the supplementary eye field (SEF) while animals held a sequence of two cued locations in memory over a short delay. We found that stimulation affected the order in which animals saccaded to the locations, but not the memory for which locations were cued. These results imply that memory for sequential order can be dissociated from that of its components. Furthermore, stimulation of the SEF appeared to bias sequence endpoints to converge toward a location in contralateral space, suggesting that this area encodes sequences in terms of their endpoints rather than their individual components.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*