Self-paced working memory: validation of verbal variations of the n-back paradigm

Brain Res. 2007 Mar 30;1139:133-42. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.12.058. Epub 2006 Dec 23.


Self-paced versions of many paradigms could have utility in probing cognitive systems. To validate several self-paced n-back paradigms, fourteen subjects performed four variations of the working memory task using visually presented letters as stimuli. Several areas in the frontal lobe, the anterior cingulate and a parietal network were consistently activated in the four variations: identity of black letters, location of black letters, color of colored letters and identity of colored letters. Since the n-back task is one of the more popular methods of investigating working memory, we validated the utility of several self-paced versions in normal subjects via quantitative, coordinate-based meta-analyses. The self-paced results agree well with meta-analyses and other published results, giving confidence that a self-paced n-back paradigm is robust in multiple variations. Behavioral results differ from other published reports, perhaps offering insight into true working memory strategy in normal subjects.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*