Segregation of working memory functions within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

Exp Brain Res. 2000 Jul;133(1):23-32. doi: 10.1007/s002210000397.


It is now widely accepted that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a critical role in the neural network subserving working memory (WM). At least three related questions are still under debate: (1) is the PFC critical for all constituent processes of WM (i.e., short-term storage, manipulation, and utilization of mental representations) or only in one or a few of them? (2) Is there segregation of function among different cytoarchitectonic subdivisions of the PFC? (3) If this be the case, is this segregation based on the nature of the information being processed or on the type of cognitive operation performed? The present review article describes findings in the monkey supporting a modular "domain-specific" model of PFC functional organization with respect to WM operations. In this model, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is composed of several subregions, based primarily on the nature of the information being processed in WM. Storage and processing functions are integrally related in each area. Future studies designed to map as yet uncharted areas of prefrontal cortex with refined anatomical and physiological approaches may provide a critical test of the model and evaluate the extent to which it applies generally or, instead, mainly to visual domains or only to dorsolateral convexity areas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*