Short-term memory and the left intraparietal sulcus: focus of attention? Further evidence from a face short-term memory paradigm

S Majerus, C Bastin, M Poncelet, M Van der Linden, E Salmon, F Collette, P Maquet
NeuroImage 2007, 35 (1): 353-67
This study explored the validity of an attentional account for the involvement of the left intraparietal sulcus (IPS) in visual STM tasks. This account considers that during STM tasks, the IPS acts as an attentional modulator, maintaining activation in long-term memory networks that underlie the initial perception and processing of the specific information to be retained. In a recognition STM paradigm, we presented sequences of unfamiliar faces and instructed the participants to remember different types of information: either the identity of the faces or their order of presentation. We hypothesized that, if the left IPS acts as an attentional modulator, it should be active in both conditions, but connected to different neural networks specialized in serial order or face identity processing. Our results showed that the left IPS was activated during both order and identity encoding conditions, but for different reasons. During order encoding, the left IPS showed functional connectivity with order processing areas in the right IPS, bilateral premotor and cerebellar cortices, reproducing earlier results obtained in a verbal STM experiment. During identity encoding, the left IPS showed preferential functional connectivity with right temporal, inferior parietal and medial frontal areas involved in detailed face processing. These results not only support an attentional account of left IPS involvement in visual STM, but given their similarity with previous results obtained for a verbal STM task, they further highlight the importance of the left IPS as an attentional modulator in a variety of STM tasks.

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