Orbitofrontal contributions to human working memory

Aron K. Barbey, Michael Koenigs, Jordan Grafman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although cognitive neuroscience has made remarkable progress in understanding the involvement of the prefrontal cortex in human memory, the necessity of the orbitofrontal cortex for key competencies of working memory remains largely unexplored. We therefore studied human brain lesion patients to determine whether the orbitofrontal cortex is necessary for working memory function, administering subtests of the Wechsler memory scale, the Wechsler adult intelligence scale, and the n-back task to 3 participant groups: orbitofrontal lesions (n = 24), prefrontal lesions not involving orbitofrontal cortex (n = 40), and no brain lesions (n = 54). Orbitofrontal damage was reliably associated with deficits on neuropsychological tests involving the coordination of working memory maintenance, manipulation, and monitoring processes (n-back task) but not on pure tests of working memory maintenance (digit/spatial span forward) or manipulation (digit/spatial span backward and letter-number sequencing). Our findings elucidate a central component of the neural architecture of working memory, providing key neuropsychological evidence for the necessity of the orbitofrontal cortex in executive control functions underlying the joint maintenance, manipulation, and monitoring of information in working memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)789-795
Number of pages7
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume21
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2011

Keywords

  • lesion data
  • orbitofrontal cortex
  • prefrontal cortex
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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