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Brain Res. 2011 Nov 14;1423:30-40. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.08.049. Epub 2011 Aug 27.

Submodality-dependent spatial organization of neurons coding for visual long-term memory in macaque inferior temporal cortex.

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Department of Physiology, The University of Tokyo School of Medicine, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


The inferior temporal (IT) cortex has been shown to serve as a storehouse of visual long-term memory for object shapes. However, it is currently unclear how information regarding multiple visual attributes of objects, including shape and color, is stored and retrieved in an organized way. Specifically, the question of whether information regarding different visual attributes is encoded by different neurons, and the spatial organization of neurons that encode visual attribute-dependent object information remain to be elucidated. In the present study, we trained monkeys to perform a pair-association task with two stimulus sets, in which individual stimuli were either visually discernible by shape or by color. We examined both the responses of single neurons and their spatial distributions in area 36 of the IT cortex. We found that a significant majority of visually responsive neurons showed stimulus selectivity for only one of the two visual attributes. Moreover, neuronal activity encoding the learned pair-associations was observed only in neurons that exhibited stimulus selectivity for one of the two visual attributes. A spatial distribution analysis demonstrated that the neurons coding for each stimulus set were not randomly distributed, but were localized in two separate clusters, each corresponding to a different visual attribute. Together, these results suggest that pair-association memory for different visual attributes is distinctly stored in the IT cortex both in terms of neuronal responses and the spatial organization of neurons coding for each visual attribute.

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