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Persistent Single-Neuron Activity during Working Memory in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe

Kornblith, Simon and Quian Quiroga, Rodrigo and Koch, Christof and Fried, Itzhak and Mormann, Florian (2017) Persistent Single-Neuron Activity during Working Memory in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe. Current Biology, 27 (7). pp. 1026-1032. ISSN 0960-9822. PMCID PMC5510887. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.013.

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Working memory is an essential component of human cognition. Persistent activity related to working memory has been reported in many brain areas, including the inferior temporal and prefrontal cortex [1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7 ; 8]. The medial temporal lobe (MTL) contains “concept cells” that respond invariantly to specific individuals or places whether presented as images, text, or speech [9 ; 10]. It is unknown, however, whether the MTL also participates in working memory processes. We thus sought to determine whether human MTL neurons respond to images held in working memory. We recorded from patients with chronically intractable epilepsy as they performed a task that required them to remember three or four sequentially presented pictures across a brief delay. 48% of visually selective neurons continued to carry image-specific information after image offset, but most ceased to encode previously presented images after a subsequent presentation of a different image. However, 8% of visually selective neurons encoded previously presented images during a final maintenance period, despite presentation of further images in the intervening interval. Population activity of stimulus-selective neurons predicted behavioral outcome in terms of correct and incorrect responses. These findings indicate that the MTL is part of a brain-wide network for working memory.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Koch, Christof0000-0001-6482-8067
Fried, Itzhak0000-0002-5962-2678
Mormann, Florian0000-0003-1305-8028
Additional Information:© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. Received 5 December 2016, Revised 13 January 2017, Accepted 6 February 2017, Available online 16 March 2017. We thank all patients for their participation; M. Cerf, A. Kraskov, M. Ison, K. Laird, A. Postolova, N. Parikshak, and V. Isiaka for help with recordings; E. Behnke and T. Fields for technical support; and B. Samimizad for assistance with spike sorting. Research was supported by the Volkswagen Foundation (Lichtenberg Program), German Research Council (DFG MO930/4-1 and SFB 1089), US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation, Gimbel Discovery Fund, Dana Foundation, and Human Frontiers Science Program. Each subject provided informed written consent. All studies conformed to the guidelines of the Medical Institutional Review Board of UCLA and the Institutional Review Board of Caltech. Author Contributions: F.M., R.Q.Q., C.K., and I.F. designed the study. I.F. performed the surgeries. F.M. implemented the paradigm and collected the data. S.K. and F.M. analyzed the data. S.K. wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.
Group:Koch Laboratory (KLAB)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Volkswagen FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)MO930/4-1
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)SFB 1089
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)UNSPECIFIED
G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Gimbel Discovery FundUNSPECIFIED
Dana FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Human Frontiers Science ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:working memory; Sternberg Task; single units; persistent activity; medial temporal lobe; microwires; human
Issue or Number:7
PubMed Central ID:PMC5510887
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170327-110847092
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Simon Kornblith, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Christof Koch, Itzhak Fried, Florian Mormann, Persistent Single-Neuron Activity during Working Memory in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe, Current Biology, Volume 27, Issue 7, 3 April 2017, Pages 1026-1032, ISSN 0960-9822,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:75415
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:27 Mar 2017 18:47
Last Modified:29 Mar 2022 15:58

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