A hallmark of working memory is the ability to maintain graded representations of both the spatial location and amplitude of a memorized stimulus. Previous work has identified a neural correlate of spatial working memory in the persistent maintenance of spatially specific patterns of neural activity. How such activity is maintained by neocortical circuits remains unknown. Traditional models of working memory maintain analog representations of either the spatial location or the amplitude of a stimulus, but not both. Furthermore, although most previous models require local excitation and lateral inhibition to maintain spatially localized persistent activity stably, the substrate for lateral inhibitory feedback pathways is unclear. Here, we suggest an alternative model for spatial working memory that is capable of maintaining analog representations of both the spatial location and amplitude of a stimulus, and that does not rely on long-range feedback inhibition. The model consists of a functionally columnar network of recurrently connected excitatory and inhibitory neural populations. When excitation and inhibition are balanced in strength but offset in time, drifts in activity trigger spatially specific negative feedback that corrects memory decay. The resulting networks can temporally integrate inputs at any spatial location, are robust against many commonly considered perturbations in network parameters, and, when implemented in a spiking model, generate irregular neural firing characteristic of that observed experimentally during persistent activity. This work suggests balanced excitatory-inhibitory memory circuits implementing corrective negative feedback as a substrate for spatial working memory.
Keywords: balanced networks; computational model; decision making; derivative feedback; integration; working memory.
Copyright © 2014 the authors 0270-6474/14/346790-17$15.00/0.