Contributions of cerebro-cerebellar function to executive verbal working memory were examined using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while 16 subjects completed two versions of the Sternberg task. In both versions subjects were presented with two or six target letters during the encoding phase, which were held in memory during the maintenance phase. A single probe letter was presented during the retrieval phase. In the " match condition" , subjects decided whether the probe matched the target letters. In the " executive condition" , subjects created a new probe by counting two alphabetical letters forward (e.g., f → h) and decided whether the new probe matched the target letters. Neural activity during the match and executive conditions was compared during each phase of the task. There were four main findings. First, cerebro-cerebellar activity increased as a function of executive load. Second, the dorsal cerebellar dentate co-activated with the supplementary motor area (SMA) during encoding. This likely represented the formation of an articulatory (motor) trajectory. Third, the ventral cerebellar dentate co-activated with anterior prefrontal regions Brodmann Area (BA) 9/46 and the pre-SMA during retrieval. This likely represented the manipulation of information and formation of a response. A functional dissociation between the dorsal " motor" dentate and " cognitive" ventral dentate agrees with neuroanatomical tract tracing studies that have demonstrated separate neural pathways involving each region of the dentate: the dorsal dentate projects to frontal motor areas (including the SMA), and the ventral dentate projects to frontal cognitive areas (including BA 9/46 and the pre-SMA). Finally, activity during the maintenance phase in BA 9, anterior insula, pre-SMA and ventral dentate predicted subsequent accuracy of response to the probe during the retrieval phase. This finding underscored the significant contribution of the pre-SMA/ventral dentate pathway - observed several seconds prior to any motor response to the probe - to executive verbal working memory.
- Executive function
- Verbal working memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience