The functional organization of working memory processes within human lateral frontal cortex: the contribution of functional neuroimaging

Eur J Neurosci. 1997 Jul;9(7):1329-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.1997.tb01487.x.


Recent functional neuroimaging studies have provided a wealth of new information about the likely organization of working memory processes within the human lateral frontal cortex. This article seeks to evaluate the results of these studies in the context of two contrasting theoretical models of lateral frontal-lobe function, developed through lesion and electrophysiological recording work in non-human primates (Goldman-Rakic, 1994, 1995; Petrides, 1994, 1995). Both models focus on a broadly similar distinction between anatomically and cytoarchitectonically distinct dorsolateral and ventrolateral frontal cortical areas, but differ in the precise functions ascribed to those regions. Following a review of the relevant anatomical data, the origins of these two theoretical positions are considered in some detail and the main predictions arising from each are identified. Recent functional neuroimaging studies of working memory processes are then critically reviewed in order to assess the extent to which they support either, or both, sets of predictions. The results of this meta-analysis suggest that lateral regions of the frontal lobe are not functionally organized according to stimulus modality, as has been widely assumed, but that specific regions within the dorsolateral or ventrolateral frontal cortex make identical functional contributions to both spatial and non-spatial working memory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Space Perception / physiology