How the motor system integrates with working memory

Cherie L. Marvel, Owen P. Morgan, Sharif I. Kronemer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Working memory is vital for basic functions in everyday life. During working memory, one holds a finite amount of information in mind until it is no longer required or when resources to maintain this information are depleted. Convergence of neuroimaging data indicates that working memory is supported by the motor system, and in particular, by regions that are involved in motor planning and preparation, in the absence of overt movement. These “secondary motor” regions are physically located between primary motor and non-motor regions, within the frontal lobe, cerebellum, and basal ganglia, creating a functionally organized gradient. The contribution of secondary motor regions to working memory may be to generate internal motor traces that reinforce the representation of information held in mind. The primary aim of this review is to elucidate motor-cognitive interactions through the lens of working memory using the Sternberg paradigm as a model and to suggest origins of the motor-cognitive interface. In addition, we discuss the implications of the motor-cognitive relationship for clinical groups with motor network deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-194
Number of pages11
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Basal ganglia
  • Cerebellum
  • Cognition
  • FMRI
  • Motor
  • Motor trace
  • Movement disorders
  • Premotor cortex
  • Sternberg
  • Supplementary motor area
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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