Working Memory Capacities Neurally Dissociate: Evidence from Acute Stroke

Cereb Cortex Commun. 2021 Jan 28;2(2):tgab005. doi: 10.1093/texcom/tgab005. eCollection 2021.


Substantial behavioral evidence implies the existence of separable working memory (WM) components for maintaining phonological and semantic information. In contrast, only a few studies have addressed the neural basis of phonological versus semantic WM using functional neuroimaging and none has used a lesion-symptom mapping (LSM) approach. Here, we address this gap, reporting a multivariate LSM study of phonological and semantic WM for 94 individuals at the acute stage of left hemisphere stroke. Testing at the acute stage avoids issues of brain reorganization and the adoption of patient strategies for task performance. The LSM analyses for each WM component controlled for the other WM component and semantic and phonological knowledge at the single word level. For phonological WM, the regions uncovered included the supramarginal gyrus, argued to be the site of phonological storage, and several cortical and subcortical regions plausibly related to inner rehearsal. For semantic WM, inferior frontal regions and the angular gyrus were uncovered. The findings thus provide converging evidence for separable systems for phonological and semantic WM that are distinguished from the systems supporting long-term knowledge representations in those domains.

Keywords: acute stroke; multivariate lesion-symptom mapping; phonological working memory; semantic working memory; support vector regression.