Current theories propose that the short-term retention of information in working memory (WM) and the recall of information from long-term memory (LTM) are supported by overlapping neural mechanisms in occipital and parietal cortex. Both are thought to rely on reinstating patterns of sensory activity evoked by the perception of the remembered item. However, the extent of the shared representations between WM and LTM are unclear, and it is unknown how WM and LTM representations may differ across cortical regions. We designed a spatial memory task that allowed us to directly compare the representations of remembered spatial information in WM and LTM. Critically, we carefully matched the precision of behavioral responses in these tasks. We used fMRI and multivariate pattern analyses to examine representations in (1) retinotopic cortex and (2) lateral parietal cortex (LPC) regions previously implicated in LTM. We show that visual memories were represented in a sensory-like code in both tasks across retinotopic regions in occipital and parietal cortex. LPC regions also encoded remembered locations in both WM and LTM, but in a format that differed from the sensory-evoked activity. These results suggest a striking correspondence in the format of WM and LTM representations across occipital and parietal cortex. On the other hand, we show that activity patterns in nearly all parietal regions, but not occipital regions, contained information that could discriminate between WM trials and LTM trials. Our data provide new evidence for theories of memory systems and the representation of mnemonic content.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience