For over 45 years, neuroscientists have conducted experiments aimed at understanding the neural basis of working memory. Early results examining individual neurons highlighted that information is stored in working memory in persistent sustained activity where neurons maintained elevated firing rates over extended periods of time. However, more recent work has emphasized that information is often stored in working memory in dynamic population codes, where different neurons contain information at different periods in time. In this paper, I review findings that show that both sustained activity as well as dynamic codes are present in the prefrontal cortex and other regions during memory delay periods. I also review work showing that dynamic codes are capable of supporting working memory and that such dynamic codes could easily be “readout” by downstream regions. Finally, I discuss why dynamic codes could be useful for enabling animals to solve tasks that involve working memory. Although additional work is still needed to know definitively whether dynamic coding is critical for working memory, the findings reviewed here give insight into how different codes could contribute to working memory, which should be useful for guiding future research.
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