Transient storage of a tactile memory trace in primary somatosensory cortex

J Neurosci. 2002 Oct 1;22(19):8720-5. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.22-19-08720.2002.


Working memory is known to involve prefrontal cortex and posterior regions of association cortex (e.g., the inferior temporal lobes). Here, we investigate the potential role of primary somatosensory cortex (SI) in a working memory task with tactile stimuli. Subjects were required to compare the frequencies of two vibrations separated by a retention interval of 1500 msec. Their performance was significantly disrupted when we delivered a pulse of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to the contralateral SI early (300 or 600 msec) in the retention interval. TMS did not affect tactile working memory if delivered to contralateral SI late in the retention interval (at 900 or 1200 msec), nor did TMS affect performance if delivered to the ipsilateral SI at any time point. Primary sensory cortex thus seems to act not only as a center for on-line sensory processing but also as a transient storage site for information that contributes to working memory.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Female
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Fingers / physiology
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Reference Values
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Vibration

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