Author(s): Javitt DC, Steinschneider M, Schroeder CE, Arezzo JC
Abstract Share this page
Abstract Working memory refers to the ability of the brain to store and manipulate information over brief time periods, ranging from seconds to minutes. As opposed to long-term memory, which is critically dependent upon hippocampal processing, critical substrates for working memory are distributed in a modality-specific fashion throughout cortex. N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors play a crucial role in the initiation of long-term memory. Neurochemical mechanisms underlying the transient memory storage required for working memory, however, remain obscure. Auditory sensory memory, which refers to the ability of the brain to retain transient representations of the physical features (e.g., pitch) of simple auditory stimuli for periods of up to approximately 30 sec, represents one of the simplest components of the brain working memory system. Functioning of the auditory sensory memory system is indexed by the generation of a well-defined event-related potential, termed mismatch negativity (MMN). MMN can thus be used as an objective index of auditory sensory memory functioning and a probe for investigating underlying neurochemical mechanisms. Monkeys generate cortical activity in response to deviant stimuli that closely resembles human MMN. This study uses a combination of intracortical recording and pharmacological micromanipulations in awake monkeys to demonstrate that both competitive and noncompetitive NMDA antagonists block the generation of MMN without affecting prior obligatory activity in primary auditory cortex. These findings suggest that, on a neurophysiological level, MMN represents selective current flow through open, unblocked NMDA channels. Furthermore, they suggest a crucial role of cortical NMDA receptors in the assessment of stimulus familiarity/unfamiliarity, which is a key process underlying working memory performance.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Neurological Disorders