Current and future goals are represented in opposite patterns in object-selective cortex

Anouk Mariette van Loon*, Katya Olmos-Solis, Johannes Jacobus Fahrenfort, Christian N.L. Olivers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adaptive behavior requires the separation of current from future goals in working memory. We used fMRI of object-selective cortex to determine the representational (dis)similarities of memory representations serving current and prospective perceptual tasks. Participants remembered an object drawn from three possible categories as the target for one of two consecutive visual search tasks. A cue indicated whether the target object should be looked for first (currently relevant), second (prospectively relevant), or if it could be forgotten (irrelevant). Prior to the first search, representations of current, prospective and irrelevant objects were similar, with strongest decoding for current representations compared to prospective (Experiment 1) and irrelevant (Experiment 2). Remarkably, during the first search, prospective representations could also be decoded, but revealed anti-correlated voxel patterns compared to currently relevant representations of the same category. We propose that the brain separates current from prospective memories within the same neuronal ensembles through opposite representational patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere38677
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2018


We thank Assaf Harel for providing the pictures used as stimuli This research was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under grant agreement no ERC-CoG-2013-615423 awarded to CNLO.

FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme615423
European Research CouncilERC-CoG-2013-615423


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