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The neural correlates of the verbal component of working memory


BY repeating words 'in our head', verbal material (such as telephone numbers) can be kept in working memory1 almost indefinitely. This 'articulatory loop' includes a subvocal rehearsal system2–6 and a phonological store3,6–10. Little is known about neural correlates of this model of verbal short-term memory. We therefore measured regional cerebral blood flow, an index of neuronal activity, in volunteers performing a task engaging both components of the articulatory loop (short-term memory for letters) 5–10 and a task which engages only the subvocal rehearsal system (rhyming judgement for letters) 4,11. Stimuli were presented visually and the subjects did not speak. We report here that comparisons of distribution of cerebral blood flow in these conditions localized the phonological store to the left supramarginal gyrus whereas the subvocal rehearsal system was associated with Broca's area. This is, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of the normal anatomy of the components of the 'articulatory loop'.

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Paulesu, E., Frith, C. & Frackowiak, R. The neural correlates of the verbal component of working memory. Nature 362, 342–345 (1993).

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