Hierarchical process memory: memory as an integral component of information processing

Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Jun;19(6):304-13. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.04.006. Epub 2015 May 14.


Models of working memory (WM) commonly focus on how information is encoded into and retrieved from storage at specific moments. However, in the majority of real-life processes, past information is used continuously to process incoming information across multiple timescales. Considering single-unit, electrocorticography, and functional imaging data, we argue that (i) virtually all cortical circuits can accumulate information over time, and (ii) the timescales of accumulation vary hierarchically, from early sensory areas with short processing timescales (10s to 100s of milliseconds) to higher-order areas with long processing timescales (many seconds to minutes). In this hierarchical systems perspective, memory is not restricted to a few localized stores, but is intrinsic to information processing that unfolds throughout the brain on multiple timescales.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Time Factors