Persistent Spatial Information in the Frontal Eye Field during Object-Based Short-Term Memory

Department of Neurobiology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 08/2012; 32(32):10907-14. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1450-12.2012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Spatial attention is known to gate entry into visual short-term memory, and some evidence suggests that spatial signals may also play a role in binding features or protecting object representations during memory maintenance. To examine the persistence of spatial signals during object short-term memory, the activity of neurons in the frontal eye field (FEF) of macaque monkeys was recorded during an object-based delayed match-to-sample task. In this task, monkeys were trained to remember an object image over a brief delay, regardless of the locations of the sample or target presentation. FEF neurons exhibited visual, delay, and target period activity, including selectivity for sample location and target location. Delay period activity represented the sample location throughout the delay, despite the irrelevance of spatial information for successful task completion. Furthermore, neurons continued to encode sample position in a variant of the task in which the matching stimulus never appeared in their response field, confirming that FEF maintains sample location independent of subsequent behavioral relevance. FEF neurons also exhibited target-position-dependent anticipatory activity immediately before target onset, suggesting that monkeys predicted target position within blocks. These results show that FEF neurons maintain spatial information during short-term memory, even when that information is irrelevant for task performance.

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