Interactions between frontal cortex and basal ganglia in working memory: a computational model

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2001 Jun;1(2):137-60. doi: 10.3758/cabn.1.2.137.


The frontal cortex and the basal ganglia interact via a relatively well understood and elaborate system of interconnections. In the context of motor function, these interconnections can be understood as disinhibiting, or "releasing the brakes," on frontal motor action plans: The basal ganglia detect appropriate contexts for performing motor actions and enable the frontal cortex to execute such actions at the appropriate time. We build on this idea in the domain of working memory through the use of computational neural network models of this circuit. In our model, the frontal cortex exhibits robust active maintenance, whereas the basal ganglia contribute a selective, dynamic gating function that enables frontal memory representations to be rapidly updated in a task-relevant manner. We apply the model to a novel version of the continuous performance task that requires subroutine-like selective working memory updating and compare and contrast our model with other existing models and theories of frontal-cortex-basal-ganglia interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Networks, Computer*