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Neuropsychologia. 2006;44(11):2171-7. Epub 2006 Jan 6.

Development of a superior frontal-intraparietal network for visuo-spatial working memory.

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Paediatric Neurology, Karolinska Institute, Astrid Lindgren's Children's Hospital Q2:07, Stockholm, Sweden.


Working memory capacity increases throughout childhood and adolescence, which is important for the development of a wide range of cognitive abilities, including complex reasoning. The spatial-span task, in which subjects retain information about the order and position of a number of objects, is a sensitive task to measure development of spatial working memory. This review considers results from previous neuroimaging studies investigating the neural correlates of this development. Older children and adolescents, with higher capacity, have been found to have higher brain activity in the intraparietal cortex and in the posterior part of the superior frontal sulcus, during the performance of working memory tasks. The structural maturation of white matter has been investigated by diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI). This has revealed several regions in the frontal lobes in which white matter maturation is correlated with the development of working memory. Among these is a superior fronto-parietal white matter region, located close to the grey matter regions that are implicated in the development of working memory. Furthermore, the degree of white matter maturation is positively correlated with the degree of cortical activation in the frontal and parietal regions. This suggests that during childhood and adolescence, there is development of networks related to specific cognitive functions, such as visuo-spatial working memory. These networks not only consist of cortical areas but also the white matter tracts connecting them. For visuo-spatial working memory, this network could consist of the superior frontal and intraparietal cortex.

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