Geometry of sequence working memory in macaque prefrontal cortex

Yang Xie, Peiyao Hu, Junru Li, Jingwen Chen, Weibin Song, Xiao Jing Wang, Tianming Yang, Stanislas Dehaene, Shiming Tang, Bin Min, Liping Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How the brain stores a sequence in memory remains largely unknown. We investigated the neural code underlying sequence working memory using two-photon calcium imaging to record thousands of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of macaque monkeys memorizing and then reproducing a sequence of locations after a delay. We discovered a regular geometrical organization: The high-dimensional neural state space during the delay could be decomposed into a sum of low-dimensional subspaces, each storing the spatial location at a given ordinal rank, which could be generalized to novel sequences and explain monkey behavior. The rank subspaces were distributed across large overlapping neural groups, and the integration of ordinal and spatial information occurred at the collective level rather than within single neurons. Thus, a simple representational geometry underlies sequence working memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)632-639
Number of pages8
Issue number6581
StatePublished - Feb 11 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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