Primate Spatial Memory Cells Become Tuned Early and Lose Tuning at Cell-Specific Times

Charalampos Papadimitriou, Charles D. Holmes, Lawrence H. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Working memory, the ability to maintain and transform information, is critical for cognition. Spatial working memory is particularly well studied. The premier model for spatial memory is the continuous attractor network, which posits that cells maintain constant activity over memory periods. Alternative models propose complex dynamics that result in a variety of cell activity time courses. We recorded from neurons in the frontal eye fields and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of 2 macaques during long (5-15 s) memory periods. We found that memory cells turn on early after stimulus presentation, sustain activity for distinct and fixed lengths of time, then turn off and stay off for the remainder of the memory period. These dynamics are more complex than the dynamics of a canonical bump attractor network model (either decaying or nondecaying) but more constrained than the dynamics of fully heterogeneous memory models. We speculate that memory may be supported by multiple attractor networks working in parallel, with each network having its own characteristic mean turn-off time such that mnemonic resources are gradually freed up over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4206-4219
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • frontal eye fields
  • macaque
  • prefrontal cortex
  • working memory


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