, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 580-599

Functional connectivity during working memory maintenance

Abstract

Neurophysiological experiments with monkeys have demonstrated that working memory (WM) is associated with persistent neural activity in multiple brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the parietal cortex, and posterior unimodal association areas. WM maintenance is believed to require the coordination of these brain regions, which do not function in isolation but, rather, interact to maintain visual percepts that are no longer present in the environment. However, single-unit physiology studies and traditional univariate analyses of functional brain imaging data cannot evaluate interactions between distant brain regions, and so evidence of regional integration during WM maintenance is largely indirect. In this study, we utilized a recently developed multivariate analysis method that allows us to explore functional connectivity between brain regions during the distinct stages of a delayed face recognition task. To characterize the neural network mediating the on-line maintenance of faces, the fusiform face area (FFA) was defined as a seed and was then used to generate whole-brain correlation maps. A random effects analysis of the correlation data revealed a network of brain regions exhibiting significant correlations with the FFA seed during the WM delay period. This maintenance network included the dorsolateral and ventrolateral PFC, the premotor cortex, the intraparietal sulcus, the caudate nucleus, the thalamus, the hippocampus, and occipitotemporal regions. These findings support the notion that the coordinated functional interaction between nodes of a widely distributed network underlies the active maintenance of a perceptual representation.

A.G. and J.R. contributed equally to this work. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Federation of Aging Research (to A.G. and M.D.), as well as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (to J.R.).