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Cereb Cortex. 2008 Jul;18(7):1618-29. Epub 2007 Nov 13.

Dynamic adjustments in prefrontal, hippocampal, and inferior temporal interactions with increasing visual working memory load.

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Henry H. Wheeler, Jr. Brain Imaging Center, Department of Psychology, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


The maintenance of visual stimuli across a delay interval in working memory tasks is thought to involve reverberant neural communication between the prefrontal cortex and posterior visual association areas. Recent studies suggest that the hippocampus might also contribute to this retention process, presumably via reciprocal interactions with visual regions. To characterize the nature of these interactions, we performed functional connectivity analysis on an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging data set in which participants performed a delayed face recognition task. As the number of faces that participants were required to remember was parametrically increased, the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) showed a linearly decreasing degree of functional connectivity with the fusiform face area (FFA) during the delay period. In contrast, the hippocampus linearly increased its delay period connectivity with both the FFA and the IFG as the mnemonic load increased. Moreover, the degree to which participants' FFA showed a load-dependent increase in its connectivity with the hippocampus predicted the degree to which its connectivity with the IFG decreased with load. Thus, these neural circuits may dynamically trade off to accommodate the particular mnemonic demands of the task, with IFG-FFA interactions mediating maintenance at lower loads and hippocampal interactions supporting retention at higher loads.

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