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Front Psychol. 2010 Dec 2;1:202. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00202. eCollection 2010.

Dissociable memory- and response-related activity in parietal cortex during auditory spatial working memory.

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Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care Toronto, ON, Canada.


Attending and responding to sound location generates increased activity in parietal cortex which may index auditory spatial working memory and/or goal-directed action. Here, we used an n-back task (Experiment 1) and an adaptation paradigm (Experiment 2) to distinguish memory-related activity from that associated with goal-directed action. In Experiment 1, participants indicated, in separate blocks of trials, whether the incoming stimulus was presented at the same location as in the previous trial (1-back) or two trials ago (2-back). Prior to a block of trials, participants were told to use their left or right index finger. Accuracy and reaction times were worse for the 2-back than for the 1-back condition. The analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data revealed greater sustained task-related activity in the inferior parietal lobule (IPL) and superior frontal sulcus during 2-back than 1-back after accounting for response-related activity elicited by the targets. Target detection and response execution were also associated with enhanced activity in the IPL bilaterally, though the activation was anterior to that associated with sustained task-related activity. In Experiment 2, we used an event-related design in which participants listened (no response required) to trials that comprised four sounds presented either at the same location or at four different locations. We found larger IPL activation for changes in sound location than for sounds presented at the same location. The IPL activation overlapped with that observed during the auditory spatial working memory task. Together, these results provide converging evidence supporting the role of parietal cortex in auditory spatial working memory which can be dissociated from response selection and execution.


attention; auditory; dorsal stream; fMRI; goal-directed action; motor response; parietal cortex; spatial

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