Neuronal activity related to visual recognition memory: long-term memory and the encoding of recency and familiarity information in the primate anterior and medial inferior temporal and rhinal cortex

Exp Brain Res. 1993;96(3):457-72. doi: 10.1007/BF00234113.


Recordings of the activity of 2705 single neurones were made in entorhinal and perirhinal cortex, area TG of the temporal lobe, and the inferior temporal cortex both during monkeys' performance of a serial recognition memory task using complex pictures and when monkeys were shown objects. Responses of 120 (9.7%) of the visually responsive neurons recorded were significantly smaller to the second than to the first presentations of unfamiliar stimuli. The incidence of such responses was highest in perirhinal cortex plus areas TE1 and TE2 of the temporal lobe, intermediate in lateral entorhinal cortex and areas TE3 and TG, and lowest in other parts of entorhinal and inferior temporal cortex. Response decrements were maintained across 20 or more intervening presentations of other stimuli for the majority of the neurones tested. Responses of 43 (14.4%) of the visually responsive neurones tested were significantly greater to unfamiliar than to highly familiar stimuli. Such differential responses were found only in lateral entorhinal and perirhinal cortex plus areas TG, TE1, TE2 and TE3. For 6 neurones the response difference was significant even when the familiar stimuli had not been seen for more than 24 h: such neurones demonstrate access to information stored in long-term memory for more than 24 h. Seven familiarity neurones signalled information concerning the relative familiarity of stimuli but not information concerning how recently they were last seen; 58 recency neurones signalled information concerning the recency of presentation of stimuli, but not their relative familiarity. Thus certain neurones demonstrate the separable encoding of recency and familiarity information. Neurones signalling information of use for recognition memory are found in cortex close to the rhinal sulcus where lesions result in major deficits in the performance of recognition memory tasks. The conjunction of these findings provides strong evidence for the importance of these neurones and this cortex for processes (recency and familiarity discrimination) necessary for recognition and working memory. The possible relation of the neuronal responses to priming memory is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta / anatomy & histology
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / cytology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception