The prefrontal cortex: response selection or maintenance within working memory?
Rowe JB., Toni I., Josephs O., Frackowiak RS., Passingham RE.
It is controversial whether the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is involved in the maintenance of items in working memory or in the selection of responses. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the performance of a spatial working memory task by humans. We distinguished the maintenance of spatial items from the selection of an item from memory to guide a response. Selection, but not maintenance, was associated with activation of prefrontal area 46 of the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex. In contrast, maintenance was associated with activation of prefrontal area 8 and the intraparietal cortex. The results support a role for the dorsal prefrontal cortex in the selection of representations. This accounts for the fact that this area is activated both when subjects select between items on working memory tasks and when they freely select between movements on tasks of willed action.