Does stimulus complexity determine whether working memory storage relies on prefrontal or sensory cortex?
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Traditionally, working and short-term memory (WM/STM) have been believed to rely on storage systems located in prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, recent experimental and theoretical efforts have suggested that, in many cases, sensory or other task-relevant cortex is the actual storage substrate for WM/STM. What factors determine whether a given WM/STM task relies on PFC or sensory cortex? In the present article, we outline recent experimental findings and suggest that the dimensionality or complexity of the to-be-remembered property or properties of a stimulus can be a determining factor.
KeywordsWorking memory Short-term memory Complexity Prefrontal cortex Sensory cortex
We thank Britt Anderson and several anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on the manuscript. The present research was supported by grants from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council to W.E.H. and P.S. and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship to T.D.B.
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