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Synaptic Theory of Working Memory

Science, 14 March 2008
Vol. 319, Issue 5869, p. 1543-1546
DOI: 10.1126/science.1150769

Synaptic Theory of Working Memory

  1. Gianluigi Mongillo1,*,,
  2. Omri Barak2,*,
  3. Misha Tsodyks2,§
  1. 1 Group for Neural Theory, Département d'Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Supérieure et Collège-de-France, Paris, France.
  2. 2 Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.
  1. § To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: misha{at}weizmann.ac.il
  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Laboratoire de Neurophysique et Physiologie, Université Paris-Descartes, CNRS-UMR8119, and Franco-Israeli Laboratory of System Neurophysiology and Neurophysics, Paris, France.

  • CNRS visiting member of the Group for Neural Theory, Ecole Normale Supérieure et Collège-de-France.

Abstract

It is usually assumed that enhanced spiking activity in the form of persistent reverberation for several seconds is the neural correlate of working memory. Here, we propose that working memory is sustained by calcium-mediated synaptic facilitation in the recurrent connections of neocortical networks. In this account, the presynaptic residual calcium is used as a buffer that is loaded, refreshed, and read out by spiking activity. Because of the long time constants of calcium kinetics, the refresh rate can be low, resulting in a mechanism that is metabolically efficient and robust. The duration and stability of working memory can be regulated by modulating the spontaneous activity in the network.

    • Received for publication 20 September 2007.
    • Accepted for publication 21 January 2008.

    Citation:

    G. Mongillo, O. Barak, and M. Tsodyks, Synaptic Theory of Working Memory. Science 319, 1543-1546 (2008).

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