Distribution of cortical activation during visuospatial n-back tasks as revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging

Cereb Cortex. 1998 Dec;8(8):743-52. doi: 10.1093/cercor/8.8.743.


Human neuroimaging studies conducted during visuospatial working memory tasks have inconsistently detected activation in the prefrontal cortical areas depending presumably on the type of memory and control tasks employed. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activation related to the performance of a visuospatial n-back task with different memory loads (0-back, 1-back and 2-back tasks). Comparison of the 2-back versus 0-back tasks revealed consistent, bilateral activation in the medial frontal gyrus (MFG), superior frontal sulcus and adjacent cortical tissue (SFS/SFG) in all subjects and in six out of seven subjects in the intraparietal sulcus (IPS). Activation was also detected in the inferior frontal gyrus, medially in the superior frontal gyrus, precentral gyrus, superior and inferior parietal lobuli, occipital visual association areas, anterior and posterior cingulate areas and in the insula. Comparison between the 1-back versus 0-back tasks revealed activation only in a few brain areas. Activation in the MFG, SFS/SFG and IPS appeared dependent on memory load. The results suggest that the performance of a visuospatial working memory task engages a network of distributed brain areas and that areas in the dorsal visual pathway are engaged in mnemonic processing of visuospatial information.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*