Stimulus-specific delay activity in human primary visual cortex

Psychol Sci. 2009 Feb;20(2):207-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02276.x. Epub 2009 Jan 8.


Working memory (WM) involves maintaining information in an on-line state. One emerging view is that information in WM is maintained via sensory recruitment, such that information is stored via sustained activity in the sensory areas that encode the to-be-remembered information. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we observed that key sensory regions such as primary visual cortex (V1) showed little evidence of sustained increases in mean activation during a WM delay period, though such amplitude increases have typically been used to determine whether a region is involved in on-line maintenance. However, a multivoxel pattern analysis of delay-period activity revealed a sustained pattern of activation in V1 that represented only the intentionally stored feature of a multifeature object. Moreover, the pattern of delay activity was qualitatively similar to that observed during the discrimination of sensory stimuli, suggesting that WM representations in V1 are reasonable "copies" of those evoked during pure sensory processing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*