Mechanisms underlying working memory for novel information

Trends Cogn Sci. 2006 Nov;10(11):487-93. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.09.005. Epub 2006 Oct 2.


In this Opinion article we describe a theory that the brain mechanisms underlying working memory for novel information include a buffer in parahippocampal cortices. Computational modeling indicates that mechanisms for maintaining novel information in working memory could differ from mechanisms for maintaining familiar information. Electrophysiological data suggest that the buffer for novel information depends on acetylcholine. Acetylcholine activates single-cell mechanisms that underlie persistent spiking of neurons in the absence of synaptic transmission, allowing maintenance of information without prior synaptic modification. fMRI studies and lesion studies suggest that parahippocampal regions mediate working memory for novel stimuli, and the effects of cholinergic blockade impair this function. These intrinsic mechanisms in parahippocampal cortices provide an important alternative to theories of working memory based on recurrent synaptic excitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / physiology
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Entorhinal Cortex / physiology
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology*
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Acetylcholine