The prefrontal cortex and working memory: physiology and brain imaging

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2004 Apr;14(2):163-8. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2004.03.003.


Sustained activity has been recorded in the prefrontal cortex during working memory tasks. First, we compare the anatomical distribution of this activity in humans and monkeys. Then, we show that it reflects many factors, maintenance of the items presented, preparation for the response, transformation of the items during the delay, task rules and task goals. Finally, we point out that sustained activity has also been recorded in other areas, such as the parietal cortex. We suggest that the key to prefrontal cortex lies not in the maintenance of sensory information but in the prospective use of that information for behaviour.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cues
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Species Specificity