Segregation of Areas Related to Visual Working Memory in the Prefrontal Cortex Revealed by rTMS


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Abstract

The functional organization of working memory (WM) in the human prefrontal cortex remains unclear. Storage and processing functions might be segregated in ventral and dorsal areas of the prefrontal cortex, respectively. If so, storage functions might be spared, irrespective of informational domain, following damage or dysfunction in dorsolateral areas. Alternatively, WM and prefrontal function in general might be segregated according to informational domains (e.g. spatial versus object-based information). In the present study we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to directly test these competing hypotheses. We applied rTMS to transiently and selectively disrupt the function of the dorsomedial, dorsolateral or ventral prefrontal cortex in normal human volunteers performing either a spatial or a face-recognition delayed-response task. Performance in the spatial task was impaired by rTMS of the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. Performance in the face-recognition (non-spatial) task was impaired by rTMS of the ventral prefrontal cortex. Transient disruption of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex affected performance in both tasks. These findings provide evidence of domain-specific segregation of WM functions in widely separated areas of prefrontal cortex.

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