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J Neurophysiol. 2001 Jan;85(1):187-96.

Microstimulation of cortical area MT affects performance on a visual working memory task.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


We applied electrical stimulation to physiologically identified sites in macaque middle temporal area (MT) to examine its role in short-term storage of recently encoded information about stimulus motion. We used a behavioral task in which monkeys compared the directions of two moving random-dot stimuli, sample and test, separated by a 1.5-s delay. Four sample directions were used for each site, and the animals had to indicate whether the direction of motion in the sample was the same as or different to the direction of motion in the test. We found that the effect of stimulation of the same directional column in MT depended on the behavioral state of the animal. Although stimulation had strong effects when applied during the encoding and the storage components of the task, these effects were not equivalent. Stimulation applied during the presentation of the sample produced signals interpreted by the monkeys as directional motion. However, the same stimulation introduced during the period of storage no longer produced signals interpreted as unambiguous directional information. We conclude that the directional information used by the monkeys in the working memory task is likely to be provided by neurons in MT, and the use of this information appears to be dependent on the portion of the task during which stimulation was delivered. Finally, the disruptive effects of stimulation during the delay suggest that MT neurons not only participate in the encoding of visual motion information but also in its storage by either maintaining an active connection with the circuitry involved in storage or being an integral component of that circuitry.

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