Sustained and transient neural modulations in prefrontal cortex related to declarative long-term memory, working memory, and attention
Marklund, P., Fransson, P., Cabeza, R., Petersson, K. M., Ingvar, M., & Nyberg, L.
Sustained and transient neural modulations in prefrontal cortex related to declarative long-term memory, working memory, and attention. Cortex, 43
(1), 22-37. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70443-X.
Common activations in prefrontal cortex (PFC) during episodic and semantic long-term memory (LTM) tasks have been hypothesized to reflect functional overlap in terms of working memory (WM) and cognitive control. To evaluate a WM account of LTM-general activations, the present study took into consideration that cognitive task performance depends on the dynamic operation of multiple component processes, some of which are stimulus-synchronous and transient in nature; and some that are engaged throughout a task in a sustained fashion. PFC and WM may be implicated in both of these temporally independent components. To elucidate these possibilities we employed mixed blocked/event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) procedures to assess the extent to which sustained or transient activation patterns overlapped across tasks indexing episodic and semantic LTM, attention (ATT), and WM. Within PFC, ventrolateral and medial areas exhibited sustained activity across all tasks, whereas more anterior regions including right frontopolar cortex were commonly engaged in sustained processing during the three memory tasks. These findings do not support a WM account of sustained frontal responses during LTM tasks, but instead suggest that the pattern that was common to all tasks reflects general attentional set/vigilance, and that the shared WM-LTM pattern mediates control processes related to upholding task set. Transient responses during the three memory tasks were assessed relative to ATT to isolate item-specific mnemonic processes and were found to be largely distinct from sustained effects. Task-specific effects were observed for each memory task. In addition, a common item response for all memory tasks involved left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC). The latter response might be seen as reflecting WM processes during LTM retrieval. Thus, our findings suggest that a WM account of shared PFC recruitment in LTM tasks holds for common transient item-related responses rather than sustained state-related responses that are better seen as reflecting more general attentional/control processes.