In the scope of the research project 356/18 - Neural mechanisms underlying unconscious working memory supported by the BIAL Foundation, Albert Compte et al. published the paper Interplay between persistent activity and activity-silent dynamics in the prefrontal cortex underlies serial biases in working memory in Nature Neuroscience.
“Persistent neuronal spiking has long been considered the mechanism underlying working memory, but recent proposals argue for alternative 'activity-silent' substrates. Using monkey and human electrophysiology data, we show here that attractor dynamics that control neural spiking during mnemonic periods interact with activity-silent mechanisms in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). This interaction allows memory reactivations, which enhance serial biases in spatial working memory. Stimulus information was not decodable between trials, but remained present in activity-silent traces inferred from spiking synchrony in the PFC. Just before the new stimulus, this latent trace was reignited into activity that recapitulated the previous stimulus representation. Importantly, the reactivation strength correlated with the strength of serial biases in both monkeys and humans, as predicted by a computational model that integrates activity-based and activity-silent mechanisms. Finally, single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation applied to the human PFC between successive trials enhanced serial biases, thus demonstrating the causal role of prefrontal reactivations in determining working-memory behavior.”