November 2017, Vol. 29, No. 11, Pages 1860-1876
Using a Large-scale Neural Model of Cortical Object Processing to Investigate the Neural Substrate for Managing Multiple Items in Short-term Memory
Many cognitive and computational models have been proposed to help understand working memory. In this article, we present a simulation study of cortical processing of visual objects during several working memory tasks using an extended version of a previously constructed large-scale neural model [Tagamets, M. A., & Horwitz, B. Integrating electrophysiological and anatomical experimental data to create a large-scale model that simulates a delayed match-to-sample human brain imaging study. Cerebral Cortex, 8, 310–320, 1998]. The original model consisted of arrays of Wilson–Cowan type of neuronal populations representing primary and secondary visual cortices, inferotemporal (IT) cortex, and pFC. We added a module representing entorhinal cortex, which functions as a gating module. We successfully implemented multiple working memory tasks using the same model and produced neuronal patterns in visual cortex, IT cortex, and pFC that match experimental findings. These working memory tasks can include distractor stimuli or can require that multiple items be retained in mind during a delay period (Sternberg's task). Besides electrophysiology data and behavioral data, we also generated fMRI BOLD time series from our simulation. Our results support the involvement of IT cortex in working memory maintenance and suggest the cortical architecture underlying the neural mechanisms mediating particular working memory tasks. Furthermore, we noticed that, during simulations of memorizing a list of objects, the first and last items in the sequence were recalled best, which may implicate the neural mechanism behind this important psychological effect (i.e., the primacy and recency effect).