Frontiers in Neurology (Nov 2021)

Multivariate FMRI Signatures of Learning in a Hebb Repetition Paradigm With Tone Sequences

  • Corey Loo,
  • Corey Loo,
  • Andy C. H. Lee,
  • Andy C. H. Lee,
  • Bradley R. Buchsbaum,
  • Bradley R. Buchsbaum

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12


Read online

Important information from the environment often arrives to the brain in temporally extended sequences. Language, music, actions, and complex events generally unfold over time. When such informational sequences exceed the limited capacity of working memory, the human brain relies on its ability to accumulate information in long-term memory over several encounters with a complex stimulus. A longstanding question in psychology and neuroscience is whether the neural structures associated with working memory storage—often viewed as capacity limited and temporary—have any builtin ability to store information across longer temporal delays. According to the classic Hebbian dual memory theory, temporally local “activity traces” underlie immediate perception and working memory, whereas “structural traces” undergird long-term learning. Here we examine whether brain structures known to be involved in working maintenance of auditory sequences, such as area Spt, also show evidence of memory persistence across trials. We used representational similarity analysis (RSA) and the Hebb repetition paradigm with supracapacity tonal sequences to test whether repeated sequences have distinguishable multivoxel activity patterns in the auditory-motor networks of the brain. We found that, indeed, area Spt and other nodes of the auditory dorsal stream show multivoxel patterns for tone sequences that become gradually more distinct with repetition during working memory for supracapacity tone-sequences. The findings suggest that the structures are important for working memory are not “blank slates,” wiped clean from moment to moment, but rather encode information in a way can lead to cross-trial persistence.