Editors' ChoiceNeuroscience

A Working Model of Working Memory

Science Signaling  18 Mar 2008:
Vol. 1, Issue 11, pp. ec105
DOI: 10.1126/stke.111ec105

Working memory, the system that enables us to hold information temporarily for processing purposes, is thought to be stored primarily in the form of elevated, persistent neuronal firing rates. Mongillo et al. (see the Perspective by Fusi) now suggest that working memory may instead be stored in the short-term facilitation caused by a temporary calcium increase in synapses from neurons that code for a particular memory. Short-term facilitation on the necessary time scale has recently been observed in prefrontal cortex, lending itself to memory maintenance on the scale of seconds. During the memory span, and also during recall, neuronal activity then shows population spikes. If memory is indeed stored in the form of synaptic facilitation, few spikes need to be expended in maintaining it, which would reduce the metabolic cost of working memory.

G. Mongillo, O. Barak, M. Tsodyks, Synaptic theory of working memory. Science 319, 1543-1546 (2008). [Abstract] [Full Text]

S. Fusi, A quiescent working memory. Science 319, 1495-1496 (2008). [Summary] [Full Text]

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