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Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Oct;18(7):2037-46.

Perirhinal cortex neuronal activity related to long-term familiarity memory in the macaque.

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University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK.


Lesion studies suggest that the perirhinal cortex plays a role in object recognition memory. To analyse its role, the activity of single neurons in the perirhinal cortex was recorded in three rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) performing a delayed matching-to-sample task with up to three intervening stimuli. A set of familiar visual stimuli was used. Some neurons had activity related to working memory, in that they responded more to the sample than to the match image within a trial, as shown previously. However, when a novel set of stimuli was introduced, the neuronal responses were on average only 47% of the magnitude of the responses to the familiar set of stimuli. Moreover, it was shown in eight different replications in three monkeys that the responses of the perirhinal cortex neurons gradually increased over hundreds of presentations of the new set of (initially novel) stimuli to become as large as with the already familiar stimuli. The mean number of 1.3-s presentations to induce this effect was 400 occurring over 7-13 days. These results show that perirhinal cortex neurons represent the very long-term familiarity of visual stimuli. A representation of the long-term familiarity of visual stimuli may be important for many aspects of social behaviour, and part of the impairment in temporal lobe amnesia may be related to the difficulty of building representations of the degree of familiarity of stimuli.

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