There is a growing appreciation for the role of the thalamus in high-level cognition. Motivated by findings that internal cognitive state drives activity in feedback layers of primary visual cortex (V1) that target the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), we investigated the role of LGN in working memory (WM). Specifically, we leveraged model-based neuroimaging approaches to test the hypothesis that human LGN encodes information about spatial locations temporarily encoded in WM. First, we localized and derived a detailed topographic organization in LGN that accords well with previous findings in humans and non-human primates. Next, we used models constructed on the spatial preferences of LGN populations in order to reconstruct spatial locations stored in WM as subjects performed modified memory-guided saccade tasks. We found that population LGN activity faithfully encoded the spatial locations held in memory in all subjects. Importantly, our tasks and models allowed us to dissociate the locations of retinal stimulation and the motor metrics of memory-guided saccades from the maintained spatial locations, thus confirming that human LGN represents true WM information. These findings add LGN to the growing list of subcortical regions involved in WM, and suggest a key pathway by which memories may influence incoming processing at the earliest levels of the visual hierarchy.
- working memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience