Comparative overview of visuospatial working memory in monkeys and rats

Ken Ichiro Tsutsui, Kei Oyama, Shinya Nakamura, Toshio Iijima

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Neural mechanisms of working memory, particularly its visuospatial aspect, have long been studied in non-human primates. On the other hand, rodents are becoming more important in systems neuroscience, as many of the innovative research methods have become available for them. There has been a question on whether primates and rodents have similar neural backgrounds for working memory. In this article, we carried out a comparative overview of the neural mechanisms of visuospatial working memory in monkeys and rats. In monkeys, a number of lesion studies indicate that the brain region most responsible for visuospatial working memory is the ventral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (vDLPFC), as the performance in the standard tests for visuospatial working memory, such as delayed response and delayed alternation tasks, are impaired by lesions in this region. Single-unit studies revealed a characteristic firing pattern in neurons in this area, a sustained delay activity. Further studies indicated that the information maintained in the working memory, such as cue location and response direction in a delayed response, is coded in the sustained delay activity. In rats, an area comparable to the monkey vDLPFC was found to be the dorsal part of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), as the delayed alternation in a T-maze is impaired by its lesion. Recently, the sustained delay activity similar to that found in monkeys has been found in the dorsal mPFC of rats performing the delayed response task. Furthermore, anatomical studies indicate that the vDLPFC in monkeys and the dorsal mPFC in rats have much in common, such as that they are both the major targets of parieto-frontal projections. Thus lines of evidence indicate that in both monkeys and rodents, the PFC plays a critical role in working memory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number99
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 16


  • Lesion
  • Monkey
  • Prefrontal
  • Rat
  • Single-unit recording

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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