Functional MRI studies of spatial and nonspatial working memory.

D’Esposito, Aguirre GK, Zarahn E, Ballard D, Shin RK, Lease J.  1998.  Functional MRI studies of spatial and nonspatial working memory., 1998 Jul. Brain Research: Cognitive Brain Research. 7(1):1-13.


Single-unit recordings in monkeys have revealed neurons in the lateral prefrontal cortex that increase their firing during a delay between the presentation of information and its later use in behavior. Based on monkey lesion and neurophysiology studies, it has been proposed that a dorsal region of lateral prefrontal cortex is necessary for temporary storage of spatial information whereas a more ventral region is necessary for the maintenance of nonspatial information. Functional neuroimaging studies, however, have not clearly demonstrated such a division in humans. We present here an analysis of all reported human functional neuroimaging studies plotted onto a standardized brain. This analysis did not find evidence for a dorsal/ventral subdivision of prefrontal cortex depending on the type of material held in working memory, but a hemispheric organization was suggested (i.e., left-nonspatial; right-spatial). We also performed functional MRI studies in 16 normal subjects during two tasks designed to probe either nonspatial or spatial working memory, respectively. A group and subgroup analysis revealed similarly located activation in right middle frontal gyrus (Brodmann’s area 46) in both spatial and nonspatial [working memory-control] subtractions. Based on another model of prefrontal organization [M. Petrides, Frontal lobes and behavior, Cur. Opin. Neurobiol., 4 (1994) 207-211], a reconsideration of the previous imaging literature data suggested that a dorsal/ventral subdivision of prefrontal cortex may depend upon the type of processing performed upon the information held in working memory.



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