Parallel Neuronal Mechanisms for Short-Term Memory

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Although objects that have just been seen may persist in memory automatically for a time and interact passively with incoming stimulation, some tasks require that the memory be actively maintained and used.To test for the existence of separate automatic and volitional mechanisms of short-term memory, recordings were made from neurons in the inferior temporal cortex of monkeys while the monkeys held a sample picture ``in mind'' and signaled when it was repeated in a sequence of pictures, ignoring other stimulus repetitions. Some neurons were suppressed by any picture repetition, regardless of relevance, whereas others were enhanced, but only when a picture matched the sample. Short-term memory appears to reflect the parallel operation of these two mechanisms--one being automatic and the other active.

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