Chronometry of parietal and prefrontal activations in verbal working memory revealed by transcranial magnetic stimulation

F M Mottaghy, M Gangitano, B J Krause, A Pascual-Leone
NeuroImage 2003, 18 (3): 565-75
We explored the temporal dynamics of parietal and prefrontal cortex involvement in verbal working memory employing single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). In six healthy volunteers the left or right inferior parietal and prefrontal cortex was stimulated with the aid of a frameless stereotactic system. TMS was applied at 10 different time points 140-500 ms into the delay period of a two-back verbal working memory task. A choice reaction task was used as a control task. Interference with task accuracy was induced by TMS earlier in the parietal cortex than in the prefrontal cortex and earlier over the right than the left hemisphere. This suggests a propagation of information flow from posterior to anterior cortical sites converging in the left prefrontal cortex. Significant interference with reaction time was observed after 180 ms with left prefrontal cortex stimulation. These effects were not observed in the control task, underlining the task specificity of our results. We propose that the interference with right-sided prefrontal cortex stimulation leads to impaired performance due to disturbed input into the left prefrontal cortex, whereas left-sided TMS interferes directly with the final information processing. Left- and right-sided brain areas might be involved in parallel processing of semantic and object features of the stimuli, respectively.

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