Neural correlates of spatial working memory in humans: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study comparing visual and tactile processes

E Ricciardi, D Bonino, C Gentili, L Sani, P Pietrini, T Vecchi
Neuroscience 2006 April 28, 139 (1): 339-49
Recent studies of neural correlates of working memory components have identified both low-level perceptual processes and higher-order supramodal mechanisms through which sensory information can be integrated and manipulated. In addition to the primary sensory cortices, working memory relies on a widely distributed neural system of higher-order association areas that includes posterior parietal and occipital areas, and on prefrontal cortex for maintaining and manipulating information. The present study was designed to determine brain patterns of neural response to the same spatial working memory task presented either visually or in a tactile format, and to evaluate the relationship between spatial processing in the visual and tactile sensory modalities. Brain activity during visual and tactile spatial working memory tasks was measured in six young right-handed healthy male volunteers by using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results indicated that similar fronto-parietal networks were recruited during spatial information processing across the two sensory modalities-specifically the posterior parietal cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. These findings provide a neurobiological support to behavioral observations by indicating that common cerebral regions subserve generation of higher order mental representations involved in working memory independently from a specific sensory modality.

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