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Neuroscience. 2006 Apr 28;139(1):351-7. Epub 2005 Dec 1.

Neural substrates of manipulation in visuospatial working memory.

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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Neuropsychology, Ruhr-University of Bochum, Universitätsstrasse 150, D-44780 Bochum, Germany.


The present study aimed to investigate in humans whether similar neuronal mechanisms underlie the manipulation and active processing of visual and visuospatial stimuli. Simultaneous and successive mental rotation and identity judgment of 2-D matrices and 3-D cube figures were contrasted using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Results demonstrate that activation patterns during mental rotation with low working memory demands differ depending on stimulus type (2-D vs. 3-D). Comparison of simultaneous mental rotation of matrices and 3-D cubes resulted in activation of frontal as well as inferior and superior parietal cortices. The opposite contrast (mental rotation of 3-D cubes vs. 2-D matrices) yielded only frontal cortex activation. The findings also yield evidence for converging, overlapping activation patterns for 2-D and 3-D stimuli if working memory demands are increased. Results are discussed within the framework of current working memory models.

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