Feature-Based Visual Short-Term Memory Is Widely Distributed and Hierarchically Organized

Neuron. 2018 Jul 11;99(1):215-226.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.05.026. Epub 2018 Jun 15.


Feature-based visual short-term memory is known to engage both sensory and association cortices. However, the extent of the participating circuit and the neural mechanisms underlying memory maintenance is still a matter of vigorous debate. To address these questions, we recorded neuronal activity from 42 cortical areas in monkeys performing a feature-based visual short-term memory task and an interleaved fixation task. We find that task-dependent differences in firing rates are widely distributed throughout the cortex, while stimulus-specific changes in firing rates are more restricted and hierarchically organized. We also show that microsaccades during the memory delay encode the stimuli held in memory and that units modulated by microsaccades are more likely to exhibit stimulus specificity, suggesting that eye movements contribute to visual short-term memory processes. These results support a framework in which most cortical areas, within a modality, contribute to mnemonic representations at timescales that increase along the cortical hierarchy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Macaca
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*