Human prefrontal cortex is not specific for working memory: a functional MRI study.

D’Esposito, Ballard D, Aguirre GK, Zarahn E.  1998.  Human prefrontal cortex is not specific for working memory: a functional MRI study., 1998 Oct. NeuroImage. 8(3):274-282.


Lesion studies in monkeys have provided evidence that lateral prefrontal cortex is necessary for working memory, the cognitive processes involved in the temporary maintenance and manipulation of information. Monkey electrophysiological studies, however, have also observed prefrontal neuronal activity associated with cognitive processes that are nonmnemonic. We tested the hypothesis that the same regions of human prefrontal cortex that demonstrate activity during working memory tasks would also demonstrate activity during tasks without working memory demands. During echoplanar fMRI imaging, subjects performed a three-condition experiment (working memory task, nonworking memory task, rest). In the working memory task, subjects observed serially presented stimuli and determined if each stimulus was the same as that presented two stimuli back. The nonworking memory task in Experiment 1 required subjects to identify a single predetermined stimulus; in Experiment 2, subjects were required to make a button press to every stimulus. In all subjects in both experiments, the working memory task exhibited greater prefrontal cortical activity compared to either nonworking memory task. In these same prefrontal regions, greater activation was also observed during both nonworking memory tasks compared to rest. We conclude that human lateral prefrontal cortex supports processes in addition to working memory. Thus, reverse inference of the form "if prefrontal cortex is active, working memory is engaged" is not supported.



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