Abstract

Neuronal activity of the human brain was studied with magnetoencephalography (MEG) in a spatial working memory task similar to those commonly used with nonhuman primates. The subject was required to remember target positions for 3 s and make a same-different judgement with a finger lift comparing the position of the probed target with the probe or to execute a memory-guided saccade to the probed target. In this type of task single-unit studies have shown attention- and memory-related activities independent of movement type during the retention interval in a large number of cortical areas of the primates, including the parietal and prefrontal areas. Consistent with these results, there were strong stimulus-driven transient and sustained responses and modulations of oscillatory activity during the retention period. Although we did not determine the source locations, coarse estimates of the currents responsible for the MEG signals showed activity over a wide area of the cortex, most prominently over the Rolandic, parietal and occipital areas, but also over the frontal area. Some of the activities in these cortical areas reflect processes that may be identified with attention and memory, while others were related to preparation of the overt movements.