Overlapping functional anatomy for working memory and visual search.
Anderson EJ., Mannan SK., Rees G., Sumner P., Kennard C.
Recent behavioural findings using dual-task paradigms demonstrate the importance of both spatial and non-spatial working memory processes in inefficient visual search (Anderson et al. in Exp Psychol 55:301-312, 2008). Here, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we sought to determine whether brain areas recruited during visual search are also involved in working memory. Using visually matched spatial and non-spatial working memory tasks, we confirmed previous behavioural findings that show significant dual-task interference effects occur when inefficient visual search is performed concurrently with either working memory task. Furthermore, we find considerable overlap in the cortical network activated by inefficient search and both working memory tasks. Our findings suggest that the interference effects observed behaviourally may have arisen from competition for cortical processes subserved by these overlapping regions. Drawing on previous findings (Anderson et al. in Exp Brain Res 180:289-302, 2007), we propose that the most likely anatomical locus for these interference effects is the inferior and middle frontal cortex of the right hemisphere. These areas are associated with attentional selection from memory as well as manipulation of information in memory, and we propose that the visual search and working memory tasks used here compete for common processing resources underlying these mechanisms.