Laminar Cortical Dynamics of Cognitive and Motor Working Memory, Sequence Learning and Performance: Toward a Unified Theory of How the Cerebral Cortex Works
Pearson, Lance R.
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How does the brain carry out working memory storage, categorization, and voluntary performance of event sequences? The LIST PARSE neural model proposes an answer to this question that unifies the explanation of cognitive, neurophysiological, and anatomical data from humans and monkeys. It quantitatively simulates human cognitive data about immediate serial recall and free recall, and monkey neurophysiological data from the prefrontal cortex obtained during sequential sensory-motor imitation and planned performance. The model clarifies why both spatial and non-spatial working memories share the same type of circuit design. It proposes how the laminar circuits of lateral prefrontal cortex carry out working memory storage of event sequences within layers 6 and 4, how these event sequences are unitized through learning into list chunks within layer 2/3, and how these stored sequences can be recalled at variable rates that are under volitional control by the basal ganglia. These laminar prefrontal circuits are variations of laminar circuits in the visual cortex that have been used to explain data about how the brain sees. These examples from visual and prefrontal cortex illustrate how laminar neocortex can represent both spatial and temporal information, and open the way towards understanding how other behaviors may be represented and controlled by variations on a shared laminar neocortical design.