Working Memory 2.0

Seminar | March 22 | 12-1 p.m. | 125 Li Ka Shing Center

 Earl K. Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience, MIT

 Neuroscience Institute, Helen Wills

Working memory is the fundamental function by which we break free from reflexive input-output reactions to gain control over our own thoughts. It has two types of mechanisms: online maintenance of information and its volitional or executive control. Classic models proposed persistent spiking for maintenance but have not explicitly addressed executive control. I will review recent theoretical and empirical studies that suggest updates/additions to the classic model. Synaptic weight changes between sparse bursts of spiking strengthen working memory maintenance. Executive control acts via interplay between network oscillations in gamma (30-100 Hz) in superficial cortical layers (layers 2 & 3) and alpha/beta (10-30 Hz) in deep cortical layers (layers 5 & 6). Deep-layer alpha/beta is associated with top-down information and inhibition. It regulates the flow of bottom-up sensory information associated with superficial layer gamma. We propose that interactions between different rhythms in distinct cortical layers underlie working memory maintenance and its volitional control.

 CA,, 5106649902