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J Neurosci. 1993 Apr;13(4):1460-78.

Activity of neurons in anterior inferior temporal cortex during a short-term memory task.

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Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Inferior temporal (IT) cortex of primates is known to play an important role in visual memory. Previous studies of IT neurons during performance of working memory tasks have found modulation of responses when a current stimulus matched an item in memory; however, this effect was lost if other stimuli intervened in the retention interval. To examine how IT cortex retains memories while new stimuli are activating the cells, we recorded from IT neurons while monkeys performed a delayed matching-to-sample task, with multiple intervening items between the sample and matching test stimulus. About half of the cells responded differently to a test stimulus if it matched the sample, and this difference was maintained following intervening stimuli. For most of the affected cells, the responses to matching stimuli were suppressed; however, for a few cells the opposite effect was seen. Temporal contiguity alone could not explain the results, as there was no modulation of responses when a stimulus on one trial was repeated on the next trial. Thus, an active reset mechanism appears to restrict the memory comparison to just the stimuli presented within a trial. The suppressive effects appear to be generated within or before IT cortex since the suppression of response to matching stimuli began almost immediately with the onset of the visual response. The memory of the sample stimulus affected not only the responses to matching stimuli but also those to nonmatching stimuli. There was suggestive evidence that the more similar a nonmatching stimulus to the sample, the more the response was suppressed. About a quarter of the cells showed stimulus-selective activity in the delay interval following the sample. However, this activity appeared to be eliminated by intervening stimuli. Thus, it is unlikely that delay-interval activity in IT contributed to the performance of this particular version of delayed matching to sample. To determine how much information about the match-nonmatch status of the stimulus was conveyed by individual neurons, we analyzed the responses with discriminant analysis. The responses of an individual IT neuron could be used to classify a stimulus as matching or nonmatching on about 60% of the trials. To achieve the same performance as the animal would require averaging the responses of a minimum of 25 IT neurons. There was no evidence that mnemonic information was carried by temporal variations in the spike trains. By contrast, there was a modest amount of temporal variation in sensory responses to different visual stimuli.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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