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Neuroimage. 2014 May 1;91:43-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.01.025. Epub 2014 Jan 27.

Decoding complex flow-field patterns in visual working memory.

Author information

1
Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Philippstrasse 13, Haus 6, Berlin, 10119, Germany; Berlin Center for Advanced Neuroimaging, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Sauerbruchweg 4, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany. Electronic address: tbchristophel@gmail.com.
2
Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Philippstrasse 13, Haus 6, Berlin, 10119, Germany; Berlin Center for Advanced Neuroimaging, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Sauerbruchweg 4, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany; Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt Universität, Unter den Linden 6, Berlin, 10099, Germany; Cluster of Excellence NeuroCure, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, 10117, Germany; Department of Psychology, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Rudower Chaussee 18, Berlin, 10099, Germany. Electronic address: haynes@bccn-berlin.de.

Abstract

There has been a long history of research on visual working memory. Whereas early studies have focused on the role of lateral prefrontal cortex in the storage of sensory information, this has been challenged by research in humans that has directly assessed the encoding of perceptual contents, pointing towards a role of visual and parietal regions during storage. In a previous study we used pattern classification to investigate the storage of complex visual color patterns across delay periods. This revealed coding of such contents in early visual and parietal brain regions. Here we aim to investigate whether the involvement of visual and parietal cortex is also observable for other types of complex, visuo-spatial pattern stimuli. Specifically, we used a combination of fMRI and multivariate classification to investigate the retention of complex flow-field stimuli defined by the spatial patterning of motion trajectories of random dots. Subjects were trained to memorize the precise spatial layout of these stimuli and to retain this information during an extended delay. We used a multivariate decoding approach to identify brain regions where spatial patterns of activity encoded the memorized stimuli. Content-specific memory signals were observable in motion sensitive visual area MT+ and in posterior parietal cortex that might encode spatial information in a modality independent manner. Interestingly, we also found information about the memorized visual stimulus in somatosensory cortex, suggesting a potential crossmodal contribution to memory. Our findings thus indicate that working memory storage of visual percepts might be distributed across unimodal, multimodal and even crossmodal brain regions.

KEYWORDS:

Human MT+; Motion flow-fields; Multivariate decoding; Posterior parietal cortex; Primary somatosensory cortex; Visual working memory

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