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Scientists unveil the format of working memory

April 7, 2022

A team of scientists has discovered how working memory is “formatted”—a finding that enhances our understanding of how visual memories are stored.   

“For decades researchers have wondered about the nature of the neural representations that support our working memory,” explains Clayton Curtis, professor of psychology and neural science at New York University and the senior author of the paper, which appears in the journal Neuron. “In this study, we used both experimental and analytical techniques to reveal the format of working memory representations in the brain.” 

The ability to store information for brief periods of time, or “working memory,” is a building block for most of our higher cognitive processes, and its dysfunction is at the heart of a variety of psychiatric and neurologic symptoms, including schizophrenia. 

Despite its importance, we still know very little about how the brain stores working memory representations. 

“Although we can predict the contents of your working memory from the patterns of brain activity, what exactly these patterns are coding for has remained impenetrable,” Curtis states.