Timothy Buschman, Princeton University

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute

“Neural Dynamics of Working (Short-Term) Memory”
PNI Faculty Speaker
Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 12:30pm
Princeton Neuroscience Institute
Neuroscience Seminar Series
Working memory is our ability to hold things ‘in mind’, acting as a flexible substrate on which thoughts can be placed and manipulated. In this talk, I will discuss two projects aimed at understanding the neural mechanisms supporting working memory. First, I will discuss how the brain selects one item from a set of items held in working memory. Large-scale recordings across prefrontal, parietal, and visual cortex show this selection process is similar to attention, suggesting a direct homology between the control processes attending to external stimuli and the processes selecting internal representations from working memory. Second, I will discuss how neural dynamics help reduce interference in working memory. Using a contextual prediction paradigm in mice, we found neurons in early sensory cortex represented both the immediate sensory stimulus as well as the memory of recent stimuli. Surprisingly, the memory representations were highly dynamic, similar to observations from prefrontal cortex in monkeys. Furthermore, we found these dynamics were very specific, acting to reduce interference between the memory representation and new sensory stimuli. Together our results provide new insight into the control and maintenance of items in working memory.