Spatial working memory activity of the caudate nucleus is sensitive to frame of reference
We used event-related fMRI to test the hypothesis that the caudate nucleus is preferentially recruited by a spatial working memory task employing egocentrically defined stimuli, which are amenable to transformation into a motor code, as contrasted with allocentrically defined stimuli, which are not. Our results revealed greater delay-epoch activity in egocentric than in allocentric trials in the caudate nucleus and trends in the same direction in the putamen and the lateral premotor cortex (PMC). Response-related activity was greater for egocentric trials in the lateral PMC. We propose that the neostriatum, possibly interacting with the PMC, may contribute to the sensory-motor transformation necessary to establish a prospective motor code (e.g., the representation of a saccade or a grasp). In addition, the PMC may participate in decision-making processes, prompted by the onset of the probe stimulus, that employ this prospective motor information. This model accounts for the empirical evidence that motor distraction disrupts spatial working memory performance.