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The Dynamic Representational Nature of Working Memory Storage

Project description

The dynamics of working memory storage

Working memory is how we keep things in mind. Central to the functioning of the mind, it temporarily holds a limited amount of information, like a phone number or a shopping list. Despite its limited capacity, it provides immediate mental use of any human higher cognition, allowing conceptual tasks like complex decision-making. The involved mechanism, the topography of its distribution in the brain, and how distributed storage is spatiotemporally organised to manage information, still needs explanation. Combining functional imaging, magneto-/electroencephalography, and invasive neural recordings, the EU funded DeepStore project will conduct experimental research on the neural underpinnings of working memory to decipher its multi-layered dynamic nature down to the single-cell level.


Working memory excels in keeping ready the momentary contents of all of human higher cognition despite being strictly limited in storage capacity. How the brain accomplishes this feat, beyond the temporary maintenance of just experienced information, is hardly understood. An emerging view suggests that working memory storage is topographically distributed according to the information’s endogenous level of abstraction. However, very little is known about how such distributed storage is orchestrated spatiotemporally, that is, how representations at different levels of abstraction are structured dynamically in time to suit current demands.
In DeepStore, we use tailored experimental designs and newly developed multivariate analysis techniques to explore for the first time directly the depth-dimension of working memory storage, in terms of dynamic levels of abstraction. Combining functional imaging, magneto-/electroencephalography, and invasive neural recordings will make it possible to track levels of abstraction spatiotemporally, with millisecond precision.
In three ambitious experimental series, DeepStore will shed new light on long-standing open questions about working memory storage, including how it is modulated by attention, inattention, and distraction, and how multiple contents are stored simultaneously. The work will shape a new theory of the neurocognitive capacity limit in working memory. We will further test novel hypotheses about how working memory interfaces with long-term memory, and how it develops over the lifespan. Finally, we will combine our innovative human neuroimaging approach with direct electrophysiological recordings in non-human primates during the same task, to disclose the fine-grained neural mechanisms of dynamic abstraction down to the single-cell level. DeepStore is anticipated to provide fundamentally new insights into the dynamic and multi-layered nature of working memory, beyond the number and precision of items it can hold.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 926 325,00
Hofgartenstrasse 8
80539 Munchen

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Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)