Working memory component processes: isolating BOLD signal changes

Neuroimage. 2010 Jan 15;49(2):1933-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.08.054. Epub 2009 Sep 2.


The chronology of the component processes subserving working memory (WM) and hemodynamic response lags has hindered the use of fMRI for exploring neural substrates of WM. In the present study, however, participants completed full trials that involved encoding two or six letters, maintaining the memory set over a delay, and then deciding whether a probe was in the memory set or not. Additionally, they completed encode-only, encode-and-maintain, and encode-and-decide partial trials intermixed with the full trials. The inclusion of partial trials allowed for the isolation of BOLD signal changes to the different trial periods. The results showed that only lateral and medial prefrontal cortex regions differentially responded to the 2- and 6-letter memory sets over the trial periods, showing greater activation to 6-letter sets during the encode and maintain trial periods. Thus, the data showed the differential involvement of PFC in the encoding and maintenance of supra- and sub-capacity memory sets and show the efficacy of using fMRI partial trial methods to study WM component processes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen