Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

In Memory of Professor Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

In Memory of Professor Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic

Article excerpt

In October of 1990, I and my colleagues Ed Smith and Bob Koeppe attended an ONR-sponsored conference on biological mechanisms of cognitive processes. At that conference, I was introduced to the work of Patricia Goldman-Rakic, who presented a riveting review of the work that she and her colleagues had conducted on working memory. Pat's use of single-cell and lesion techniques that focused on regions around the principal sulcus in monkeys had revealed remarkable computational prowess of single neurons in the service of storage in working memory. Readers of this journal do not need to be told the substance of this story: They will know that Pat's work (as well, of course, as the work of other pioneers in this area, such as Joaquin Fuster), extending, refining, and elaborating on other work beginning with that of Jacobsen, had unveiled remarkable delay-related activity in these neurons that provided crucial information about their role in preserving representations of space for short periods of time. My colleagues and I responded to this remarkable line of work by huddling in the hallway during conference breaks and concocting an experiment that might bring Pat's work to the human, via neuroimaging methods (at the time, PET). Our own research then jumped off from this point to issues of storage and manipulation of information in working memory, lines of research that have been pursued by many other investigators since.

What we know about working memory from both the human and animal studies from the ensuing 14 years is a vast expansion upon what we knew in 1990. The psychology behind Pat's work had offered many clues about processing mechanisms underlying working memory, but it is in large part the research of Pat Goldman-Rakic, her predecessors, her collaborators, and her contemporaries that stimulated the vast body of research that has mapped out the brain mechanisms that we know about today. …

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