The role of parietal cortex in verbal working memory

J Neurosci. 1998 Jul 1;18(13):5026-34. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.18-13-05026.1998.


Neuroimaging studies of normal subjects and studies of patients with focal lesions implicate regions of parietal cortex in verbal working memory (VWM), yet the precise role of parietal cortex in VWM remains unclear. Some evidence (; ) suggests that the parietal cortex mediates the storage of verbal information, but these studies and most previous ones included encoding and retrieval processes as well as storage and rehearsal of verbal information. A recent positron emission tomography (PET) study by isolated storage and rehearsal from other VWM processes and did not find reliable activation in parietal cortex. This result suggests that parietal cortex may not be involved in VWM storage, contrary to previous proposals. However, we report two behavioral studies indicating that some of the verbal material used by may not have required phonological representations in VWM. In addition, we report a PET study that isolated VWM encoding, retrieval, and storage and rehearsal processes in different PET scans and used material likely to require phonological codes in VWM. After subtraction of appropriate controls, the encoding condition revealed no reliable activations; the retrieval condition revealed reliable activations in dorsolateral prefrontal, anterior cingulate, posterior parietal, and extrastriate cortices, and the storage condition revealed reliable activations in dorsolateral prefrontal, inferior frontal, premotor, and posterior parietal cortices, as well as cerebellum. These results suggest that parietal regions are part of a network of brain areas that mediate the short-term storage and retrieval of phonologically coded verbal material.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Speech / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*