Differential dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation during a verbaln-back task according to sensory modality

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Abstract

Functional neuroimaging studies carried out on healthy volunteers while performing different n-back tasks have shown a common pattern of bilateral frontoparietal activation, especially of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Our objective was to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the pattern of brain activation while performing two similar n-back tasks which differed in their presentation modality. Thirteen healthy volunteers completed a verbal 2-back task presenting auditory stimuli, and a similar 2-back task presenting visual stimuli. A conjunction analysis showed bilateral activation of frontoparietal areas including the DLPFC. The left DLPFC and the superior temporal gyrus showed a greater activation in the auditory than in the visual condition, whereas posterior brain regions and the anterior cingulate showed a greater activation during the visual than during the auditory task. Thus, brain areas involved in the visual and auditory versions of the n-back task showed an important overlap between them, reflecting the supramodal characteristics of working memory. However, the differences found between the two modalities should be considered in order to select the most appropriate task for future clinical studies.

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