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Cereb Cortex. 1996 Jan-Feb;6(1):39-49.

Object and spatial visual working memory activate separate neural systems in human cortex.

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Laboratory of Psychology and Psychopathology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Human and nonhuman primate visual systems are divided into object and spatial information processing pathways. In the macaque, it has been shown that these pathways project to separate areas in the frontal lobe and that the ventral and dorsal frontal areas are, respectively, involved in working memory for objects and spatial locations. A positron emission tomography (PET) study was done to determine if a similar anatomical segregation exists in humans for object and spatial visual working memory. Face working memory demonstrated significant increases in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), relative to location working memory, in fusiform, parahippocampal, inferior frontal, and anterior cingulate cortices, and in right thalamus and midline cerebellum. Location working memory demonstrated significant increases in cRBF, relative to face working memory, in superior and inferior parietal cortex, and in the superior frontal sulcus. Our results show that the neural systems involved in working memory for faces and for spatial location are functionally segregated, with different areas recruited in both extrastriate and frontal cortices for processing the two types of visual information.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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