Cognitive Processing

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 19–28 | Cite as

The role of the episodic buffer in working memory for language processing



A body of work has accumulated to show that the cognitive process of binding information from different mnemonic and sensory sources as well as in different linguistic modalities can be fractionated from general executive functions in working memory both functionally and neurally. This process has been defined in terms of the episodic buffer (Baddeley in Trends Cogn Sci 4(11):417–423, 2000). This paper considers behavioural, neuropsychological and neuroimaging data that elucidate the role of the episodic buffer in language processing. We argue that the episodic buffer seems to be truly multimodal in function and that while formation of unitary multidimensional representations in the episodic buffer seems to engage posterior neural networks, maintenance of such representations is supported by frontal networks. Although, the episodic buffer is not necessarily supported by executive processes and seems to be supported by different neural networks, it may operate in tandem with the central executive during effortful language processing. There is also evidence to suggest engagement of the phonological loop during buffer processing. The hippocampus seems to play a role in formation but not maintenance of representations in the episodic buffer of working memory.


Working memory Episodic buffer Sign language Executive functions Hippocampus 


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Swedish Institute for Disability Research, Department of Behavioural Sciences and LearningLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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