Neuronal correlate of pictorial short-term memory in the primate temporal cortex

Nature. 1988 Jan 7;331(6151):68-70. doi: 10.1038/331068a0.


It has been proposed that visual-memory traces are located in the temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex, as electric stimulation of this area in humans results in recall of imagery. Lesions in this area also affect recognition of an object after a delay in both humans and monkeys, indicating a role in short-term memory of images. Single-unit recordings from the temporal cortex have shown that some neurons continue to fire when one of two or four colours are to be remembered temporarily. But neuronal responses selective to specific complex objects, including hands and faces, cease soon after the offset of stimulus presentation. These results led to the question of whether any of these neurons could serve the memory of complex objects. We report here a group of shape-selective neurons in an anterior ventral part of the temporal cortex of monkeys that exhibited sustained activity during the delay period of a visual short-term memory task. The activity was highly selective for the pictorial information to be memorized and was independent of the physical attributes such as size, orientation, colour or position of the object. These observations show that the delay activity represents the short-term memory of the categorized percept of a picture.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Macaca
  • Memory, Short-Term* / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*