Working memory dysfunction in stroke patients

Abid Qureshi, Argye E. Hillis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction Working memory is the cognitive process of holding information and manipulating information. Before working memory can be discussed in relation to stroke, one must first have a clear understanding of what working memory is. Notably, working memory is not synonymous with short-term memory. Short-term memory is the short-term storage of semantic, phonological, visual, or episodic information. It is short-term storage of the concept of the color red (semantic information) or the short-term storage of the word “red” in the form of a neural representation. It is also a short-term storage or representation of what is happening to you, in your own personal experience, right now (episodic information), for example, reading a sentence in a book while at home in the evening. When this information becomes permanently ingrained in the brain and can be recalled in the distant future it is called long-term memory. If short-term memory is a snapshot of a single moment in time, what bridges these single moments in time together to allow an animal to interact with the environment, such as finding food, navigating through a maze, or holding a conversation in mind? The answer is working memory. Similarly, one might recall from prior experience (i.e. long-term memory) what a red apple tree looks like, which would be important to keep in mind for the entire duration of time that it takes to navigate a forest searching for an apple. These pieces of current and prior semantic information are held in mind, in working memory, only as long as they are needed for a particular behavioral goal. The information is then stored permanently in long-term memory or is replaced with other information, at which point it is no longer a part of working memory. Critical to this distinction is that short-term memory is only a passive store (i.e. a neural representation), while working memory is the active storage and concurrent processing of information “held” in short-term memory. (Although, heuristically, information to be stored and the process of storing it are discussed separately, neurally the two are not distinguishable.)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology of Stroke
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781139058988
ISBN (Print)9781107015579
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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