Maintenance versus manipulation of information held in working memory: an event-related fMRI study

Brain Cogn. 1999 Oct;41(1):66-86. doi: 10.1006/brcg.1999.1096.


One model of the functional organization of lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) in primates posits that this region is organized in a dorsal/ventral fashion subserving spatial and object working memory, respectively. Alternatively, it has been proposed that a dorsal/ventral subdivision of lateral PFC instead reflects the type of processing performed upon information held in working memory. We tested this hypothesis using an event-related fMRI method that can discriminate among functional changes occurring during temporally separated behavioral subcomponents of a single trial. Subjects performed a delayed-response task with two types of trials in which they were required to: (1) retain a sequence of letters across the delay period (maintenance) or (2) reorder the sequence into alphabetical order across the delay period (manipulation). In each subject, activity during the delay period was found in both dorsolateral and ventrolateral PFC in both types of trials. However, dorsolateral PFC activity was greater in manipulation trials. These findings are consistent with the processing model of the functional organization of working memory in PFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Time Factors