When we use our working memory, we temporarily retain information in our brain. For instance, you are able to comprehend this sentence because you are briefly storing in working memory each of the words you are reading until you put them together to form the meaning of the sentence. The importance of working memory to many of our cognitive abilities is well known, but less clear are the neurological machinations driving this process.
A team of researchers from New York University has now demonstrated that the key to understanding working memory relies not only on what one is storing in memory, but also why. This is the “working” part of working memory, which emphasizes the purpose of storing something in the first place.
Specifically, the study focuses on both how we store the visual properties of our memories in the occipital lobe, where our visual system resides, and on how the neural codes that store those memories change over time as people begin to prepare a response that depends on the memory.