Journal Article Working memory in the prefrontal cortex

Funahashi, Shintaro

7 ( 5 ) 2017-04-27 , MDPI AG
The prefrontal cortex participates in a variety of higher cognitive functions. The concept of working memory is now widely used to understand prefrontal functions. Neurophysiological studies have revealed that stimulus-selective delay-period activity is a neural correlate of the mechanism for temporarily maintaining information in working memory processes. The central executive, which is the master component of Baddeley’s working memory model and is thought to be a function of the prefrontal cortex, controls the performance of other components by allocating a limited capacity of memory resource to each component based on its demand. Recent neurophysiological studies have attempted to reveal how prefrontal neurons achieve the functions of the central executive. For example, the neural mechanisms of memory control have been examined using the interference effect in a dual-task paradigm. It has been shown that this interference effect is caused by the competitive and overloaded recruitment of overlapping neural populations in the prefrontal cortex by two concurrent tasks and that the information-processing capacity of a single neuron is limited to a fixed level, can be flexibly allocated or reallocated between two concurrent tasks based on their needs, and enhances behavioral performance when its allocation to one task is increased. Further, a metamemory task requiring spatial information has been used to understand the neural mechanism for monitoring its own operations, and it has been shown that monitoring the quality of spatial information represented by prefrontal activity is an important factor in the subject's choice and that the strength of spatially selective delay-period activity reflects confidence in decision-making. Although further studies are needed to elucidate how the prefrontal cortex controls memory resource and supervises other systems, some important mechanisms related to the central executive have been identified.

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