Task-specific versus generalized mnemonic representations in parietal and prefrontal cortices

Arup Sarma, Nicolas Y. Masse, Xiao Jing Wang, David J. Freedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our ability to learn a wide range of behavioral tasks is essential for responding appropriately to sensory stimuli according to behavioral demands, but the underlying neural mechanism has been rarely examined by neurophysiological recordings in the same subjects across learning. To understand how learning new behavioral tasks affects neuronal representations, we recorded from posterior parietal cortex (PPC) before and after training on a visual motion categorization task. We found that categorization training influenced cognitive encoding in PPC, with a marked enhancement of memory-related delay-period encoding during the categorization task that was absent during a motion discrimination task before categorization training. In contrast, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) exhibited strong delay-period encoding during both discrimination and categorization tasks. This reveals a dissociation between PFC's and PPC's roles in working memory, with general engagement of PFC across multiple tasks, in contrast with more task-specific mnemonic encoding in PPC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-149
Number of pages7
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 29 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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