Nav: Home

Flexibility of working memory from random connections

May 16, 2019

A new article in Neuron from Princeton University neuroscientists Flora Bouchacourt and Tim Buschman presents a new model of working memory.

Working memory is your ability to hold things 'in mind.' It acts as a workspace in which information can be held, manipulated, and then used to guide behavior. In this way, it plays a critical role in cognition, decoupling behavior from the immediate sensory world. One of the remarkable things about working memory is its flexibility -- you can hold anything in mind.

How this flexibility is achieved has not been understood. In their new manuscript, Bouchacourt and Buschman present a new model of working memory that captures this flexibility.

The model combines a high-dimensional random network with structured sensory networks to flexibly maintain any input. The untuned nature of the connections allows the network to maintain any arbitrary input.

However, this flexibility comes at a cost: the random connections overlap, leading to interference between representations and limiting the memory capacity of the network. This matches the limited capacity of working memory in humans and suggests there is a tradeoff between flexibility and capacity in working memory.

In addition, the model captures several other behavioral and neurophysiological characteristics of working memory.

This work provides new insight into a core cognitive function in humans. Ongoing work hopes to understand how these mechanisms may be disrupted in neuropsychiatric diseases that disrupt working memory.
-end-


Princeton University

Related Working Memory Articles:

Slower growth in working memory linked to teen driving crashes
Research into why adolescent drivers are involved in motor vehicle crashes, the leading cause of injury and death among 16- to 19-year-olds in the United States, has often focused on driving experience and skills.
Are differences in working memory development associated with crashes involving young drivers?
This study of 84 young drivers looked at the association between motor vehicle crashes and differences in the development of working memory, which is critical to awareness of hazards while driving.
Working memory is structured hierarchically
Researchers in cognitive psychology at HSE University have experimentally demonstrated that the colors and orientations of objects are stored and processed independently in working memory.
Chimpanzees' working memory similar to ours
Working memory is central to our mental lives; we use it to add up the cost of our shopping or to remember the beginning of this sentence at its end.
Flexibility of working memory from random connections
Working memory is your ability to hold things 'in mind.' It acts as a workspace in which information can be held, manipulated, and used to guide behavior.
Good sleep quality and good mood lead to good working memory with age
A team of psychologists has found strong associations between working memory -- a fundamental building block of a functioning mind -- and three health-related factors: sleep, age, and depressed mood.
BU scientists find electrostimulation can improve working memory in people
In a groundbreaking study published in Nature Neuroscience, Boston University researchers demonstrate that electrostimulation can improve the working memory of people in their 70s so that their performance on memory tasks is indistinguishable from that of 20-year-olds.
Word order predicts a native speakers' working memory
Memory plays a crucial role in our lives, and several studies have already investigated how we store and retrieve information under different conditions.
A new model for how working memory gets you through the day
MIT neuroscientists present a new model of working memory that explains how the brain holds information in mind (the 'memory' part) and also executes volitional control over it (the 'working' part).
Working memory might be more flexible than previously thought
Breaking with the long-held idea that working memory has fixed limits, a new study by researchers at Uppsala University and New York University suggests that these limits adapt themselves to the task that one is performing.
More Working Memory News and Working Memory Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.