Prefrontal cortical contributions to working memory: evidence from event-related fMRI studies
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Working memory refers to the short-term retention of information that is no longer accessible in the environment, and the manipulation of this information, for subsequent use in guiding behavior. In this review, we will present data from a series of event-related functional magnetic-resonance-imaging (fMRI) studies of delayed-response tasks that were designed to investigate the role of different regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) during different working-memory component processes. From these data, we conclude that: (1) lateral PFC is anatomically organized according to the types of cognitive operations that one performs when attempting to temporarily maintain and manipulate information; and (2) consistent with the picture that has emerged from the monkey electrophysiological literature, human lateral PFC is involved in several encoding- and response-related processes as well as mnemonic and nonmnemonic processes that are engaged during the temporary maintenance of information. Thus, lateral PFC activity cannot be ascribed to the function of a single, unitary cognitive operation.
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