The Distributed Nature of Working Memory

Thomas B Christophel, P Christiaan Klink, Bernhard Spitzer, Pieter R Roelfsema, John-Dylan Haynes

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

429 Citations (Scopus)


Studies in humans and non-human primates have provided evidence for storage of working memory contents in multiple regions ranging from sensory to parietal and prefrontal cortex. We discuss potential explanations for these distributed representations: (i) features in sensory regions versus prefrontal cortex differ in the level of abstractness and generalizability; and (ii) features in prefrontal cortex reflect representations that are transformed for guidance of upcoming behavioral actions. We propose that the propensity to produce persistent activity is a general feature of cortical networks. Future studies may have to shift focus from asking where working memory can be observed in the brain to how a range of specialized brain areas together transform sensory information into a delayed behavioral response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-124
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2017


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