Neuroscience

Overcoming working memory limitations

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Science  01 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6392, pp. 977-978
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6392.977-g

The capacity of our working memory is limited. We normally do not notice these limitations because we use a repertoire of behavioral strategies to overcome them. To investigate how these high-level strategies interact with working memory, Chiang and Wallis trained rhesus macaques to perform a search task and recorded from neurons in their lateral prefrontal cortex. Individual neurons encoded the location of the current search target, as well as the location of other targets several steps earlier or later in the search sequence. Both upcoming targets and previously visited targets were encoded well above chance. However, lateral prefrontal cortical neurons were more likely to encode upcoming targets. Macaques spontaneously used behavioral strategies that helped them solve the task; this improved their performance while simultaneously reducing the neuronal load required.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115, 5010 (2018).

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