Beyond working memory: the role of persistent activity in decision making

Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 May;14(5):216-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.03.006. Epub 2010 Apr 8.


Since its first discovery in the prefrontal cortex, persistent activity during the interval between a transient sensory stimulus and a subsequent behavioral response has been identified in many cortical and subcortical areas. Such persistent activity is thought to reflect the maintenance of working memory representations that bridge past events with future contingent plans. Indeed, the term persistent activity is sometimes used interchangeably with working memory. In this review, we argue that persistent activity observed broadly across many cortical and subcortical areas reflects not only working memory maintenance, but also a variety of other cognitive processes, including perceptual and reward-based decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Psychomotor Performance*