Theoretically, working memory (WM) representations are encoded by population activity of neurons with distributed tuning across the stored feature. Here, we leverage computational neuroimaging approaches to map the topographic organization of human superior colliculus (SC) and model how population activity in SC encodes WM representations. We first modeled receptive field properties of voxels in SC, deriving a detailed topographic organization resembling that of the primate SC. Neural activity within human (5 male and 1 female) SC persisted throughout a retention interval of several types of modified memory-guided saccade tasks. Assuming an underlying neural architecture of the SC based on its retinotopic organization, we used an encoding model to show that the pattern of activity in human SC represents locations stored in WM. Our tasks and models allowed us to dissociate the locations of visual targets and the motor metrics of memory-guided saccades from the spatial locations stored in WM, thus confirming that human SC represents true WM information. These data have several important implications. They add the SC to a growing number of cortical and subcortical brain areas that form distributed networks supporting WM functions. Moreover, they specify a clear neural mechanism by which topographically organized SC encodes WM representations.
- Working memory
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