MAR 16, 2017 06:00 AM PDT

Working Memory: Neurophysiological Basis, Development, and Plasticity

Presented At Neuroscience 2017
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  • Professor, Wake Forest School of Medicine
      Christos Constantinidis is a professor at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, and completed postdoctoral training at Yale University. Research in his laboratory aims to understand how neuronal activity in the cerebral cortex gives rise to cognitive functions, such as working memory. Experiments in recent years have focused on the posterior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Simultaneous neuronal recordings from multiple micro-electrodes during performance of cognitive tasks are addressing how these areas are functionally organized and how experience and learning modifies the properties of their neurons. Neuronal activity in these areas is also monitored under at different stages of development, particularly focusing on the neural substrates of cognitive maturation between the stages of adolescence and adulthood. Computational and modeling approaches are then employed to understand the neural mechanisms that mediate complex cognitive functions such as the maintenance of a stimulus in working memory.


    Working memory ability matures late in life, in adolescence or early adulthood, and may be enhanced even in adulthood through cognitive training. The mechanisms through which working memory is mediated, and how it is modified so as to mediate such cognitive changes have been a matter of debate in recent years. To address this question, my laboratory has performed a series of experiments recording neuronal activity in adolescence and adulthood, as well as before and after training on working memory tasks. Neural activity comparisons between adolescent and adulthood revealed unchanged representation of visual stimuli, increased activation during working memory, but decreased representation of distracting stimuli. After task training, more prefrontal neurons were activated by the stimuli, and increased activity was present during working memory maintenance. These results reveal the nature of changes in neural activity that underlie cognitive enhancement in development and as a result of task training.

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