CORTEX Conference by Jorge Mejias

Event date: May 10, 2023

Faculty of Science, Swammerdam Institute for Life Science, University of Amsterdam

Wednesday 10th May, 10am, CRNL Amphi

Working memory in computational brain models of human and non-human primates 

Working memory is a fundamental cognitive function which allows to transiently store and manipulate relevant information in memory. While it has been traditionally linked to activity in specific prefrontal cortical areas, recent electrophysiological and imagingevidence has shown co-occurrent activities in different brain regions during working memory. In this talk, I will present some of my recent work to dissect the mechanisms behind the emergence of such distributed working memory activity in the human and non-human primate (NHP) brain. In the first part of the talk, I will detail how to build a data-constrained model of the large-scale cortical network of the macaque monkey, and how to embed the model with cognitive functionalities used to study working memory. I will then discuss the underlying mechanisms of distributed working memory according to that model, and present computational predictions regarding the importance of feedback inhibition, lesioning/silencing areas, and resistance to distractors. In the second part of the talk, I will extend this model to the human brain and discuss how limitations linked to the (noninvasive) nature of human brain data can be alleviated. I will then explore novel aspects of distributed working memory that the model predicts are unique to the human brain, such as “forbidden gaps” in parameter space and a greater flexibility in the features of feedback projections. This model also provides a solution to the problem of how and why working memory contents can be inferred from V1 activity. Overall, our results suggest that large-scale brain models for humans and NHPs have reached a stage of maturity in which they can be used not only to replicated brain activity, but to address important questions of cognitive functions.