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J Neurosci. 2013 Apr 10;33(15):6516-23. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5732-12.2013.

Distributed patterns of activity in sensory cortex reflect the precision of multiple items maintained in visual short-term memory.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53719, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Neurosci. 2013 May 22;33(21):9231.

Abstract

Traditionally, load sensitivity of sustained, elevated activity has been taken as an index of storage for a limited number of items in visual short-term memory (VSTM). Recently, studies have demonstrated that the contents of a single item held in VSTM can be decoded from early visual cortex, despite the fact that these areas do not exhibit elevated, sustained activity. It is unknown, however, whether the patterns of neural activity decoded from sensory cortex change as a function of load, as one would expect from a region storing multiple representations. Here, we use multivoxel pattern analysis to examine the neural representations of VSTM in humans across multiple memory loads. In an important extension of previous findings, our results demonstrate that the contents of VSTM can be decoded from areas that exhibit a transient response to visual stimuli, but not from regions that exhibit elevated, sustained load-sensitive delay-period activity. Moreover, the neural information present in these transiently activated areas decreases significantly with increasing load, indicating load sensitivity of the patterns of activity that support VSTM maintenance. Importantly, the decrease in classification performance as a function of load is correlated with within-subject changes in mnemonic resolution. These findings indicate that distributed patterns of neural activity in putatively sensory visual cortex support the representation and precision of information in VSTM.

PMID:
23575849
PMCID:
PMC3664518
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5732-12.2013
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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