Physiological characteristics of capacity constraints in working memory as revealed by functional MRI.
A fundamental characteristic of working memory is that its capacity to handle information is limited. While there have been many brain mapping studies of working memory, the physiological basis of its capacity limitation has not been explained. We identified characteristics of working memory capacity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in healthy subjects. Working memory capacity was studied using a parametric 'n-back' working memory task involving increasing cognitive load and ultimately decreasing task performance. Loci within dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) evinced exclusively an 'inverted-U' shaped neurophysiological response from lowest to highest load, consistent with a capacity-constrained response. Regions outside of DLPFC, in contrast, were more heterogeneous in response and often showed early plateau or continuously increasing responses, which did not reflect capacity constraints. However, sporadic loci, including in the premotor cortex, thalamus and superior parietal lobule, also demonstrated putative capacity-constrained responses, perhaps arising as an upstream effect of DLPFC limitations or as part of a broader network-wide capacity limitation. These results demonstrate that regionally specific nodes within the working memory network are capacity-constrained in the physiological domain, providing a missing link in current explorations of the capacity characteristics of working memory. (+info)
Neural changes after operant conditioning of the aerial respiratory behavior in Lymnaea stagnalis.
In this study, we demonstrate neural changes that occurred during operant conditioning of the aerial respiratory behavior of Lymnaea stagnalis. Aerial respiration in Lymnaea occurs at the water interface and is achieved by opening and closing movements of its respiratory orifice, the pneumostome. This behavior is controlled by a central pattern generator (CPG), the neurons of which, as well as the motoneurons innervating the pneumostome, have previously been identified and their synaptic connections well characterized. The respiratory behavior was operantly conditioned by applying a mechanical stimulus to the open pneumostome whenever the animal attempted to breathe. This negative reinforcement to the open pneumostome resulted in its immediate closure and a significant reduction in the overall respiratory activity. Electrophysiological recordings from the isolated CNSs after operant conditioning showed that the spontaneous patterned respiratory activity of the CPG neurons was significantly reduced. This included reduced spontaneous activity of the CPG interneuron involved in pneumostome opening (input 3 interneuron) and a reduced frequency of spontaneous tonic activity of the CPG interneuron [right pedal dorsal 1 (RPeD1)]. The ability to trigger the patterned respiratory activity by electrical stimulation of RPeD1 was also significantly reduced after operant conditioning. This study therefore demonstrates significant changes within a CPG that are associated with changes in a rhythmic homeostatic behavior after operant conditioning. (+info)
Differential spatial memory impairment after right temporal lobectomy demonstrated using temporal titration.
In this study a temporal titration method to explore the extent to which spatial memory is differentially impaired following right temporal lobectomy was employed. The spatial and non-spatial memory of 19 left and 19 right temporal lobectomy (TL) patients was compared with that of 16 normal controls. The subjects studied an array of 16 toy objects and were subsequently tested for object recall, object recognition and memory for the location of the objects. By systematically varying the retention intervals for each group, it was possible to match all three groups on object recall at sub-ceiling levels. When memory for the position of the objects was assessed at equivalent delays, the right TL group revealed disrupted spatial memory, compared with both left TL and control groups (P < 0.05). MRI was used to quantify the extent of temporal lobe resection in the two groups and a significant correlation between hippocampal removal and both recall of spatial location and object name recall in the right TL group only was shown. These data support the notion of a selective (but not exclusive) spatial memory impairment associated with right temporal lobe damage that is related to the integrity of the hippocampal functioning. (+info)
Object location learning and non-spatial working memory of patients with Parkinson's disease may be preserved in "real life" situations.
The presence of a spatial memory deficit in Parkinson's disease (PD) is still a matter of discussion. Nineteen PD patients and 16 controls were given two spatial tests and a non-spatial task. First, the subject was led into a room containing 4 objects and had 10 s to memorize their location. After being led outside, the subject had to place icons representing the objects on a map of the room. Differences between the real and estimated locations were evaluated. Afterwards, the subject had to choose a map showing the correct arrangement of objects from 4 alternatives. Locations of some objects were changed before the second test. The subject had 10 s to detect these changes. One point was given for each change or its absence detected. In the non-spatial working memory task, 8 cards of different shapes were used. The subject had to select a different card each time while the cards were shuffled between choices. Errors consisted of selecting previously chosen cards. The means of the above measures for both groups were compared. Absence of any significant differences suggests that PD patients perform well in "real life" memory tests in contrast to similar computerized tests. (+info)
The predictive value of changes in effective connectivity for human learning.
During learning, neural responses decrease over repeated exposure to identical stimuli. This repetition suppression is thought to reflect a progressive optimization of neuronal responses elicited by the task. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to study the neural basis of associative learning of visual objects and their locations. As expected, activation in specialized cortical areas decreased with time. However, with path analysis it was shown that, in parallel to this adaptation, increases in effective connectivity occurred between distinct cortical systems specialized for spatial and object processing. The time course of these plastic changes was highly correlated with individual learning performance, suggesting that interactions between brain areas underlie associative learning. (+info)
Crossmodal associative memory representations in rodent orbitofrontal cortex.
Firing patterns of neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex (OF) were analyzed in rats trained to perform a task that encouraged incidental associations between distinct odors and the places where their occurrence was detected. Many of the neurons fired differentially when the animals were at a particular location or sampled particular odors. Furthermore, a substantial fraction of the cells exhibited odor-specific firing patterns prior to odor presentation, when the animal arrived at a location associated with that odor. These findings suggest that neurons in the OF encode cross-modal associations between odors and locations within long-term memory. (+info)
Episodic memory in transient global amnesia: encoding, storage, or retrieval deficit?
OBJECTIVES: To assess episodic memory (especially anterograde amnesia) during the acute phase of transient global amnesia to differentiate an encoding, a storage, or a retrieval deficit. METHODS: In three patients, whose amnestic episode fulfilled all current criteria for transient global amnesia, a neuropsychological protocol was administered which included a word learning task derived from the Grober and Buschke's procedure. RESULTS: In one patient, the results suggested an encoding deficit, and in two others, a storage deficit. CONCLUSIONS: The encoding/storage impairment concerning anterograde amnesia documented in our patients stands in clear contrast with the impairment in retrieval which must underly the retrograde amnesia that also characterises transient global amnesia. This dissociation in turn favours the idea of a functional independence among the cognitive mechanisms that subserve episodic memory. (+info)
Executive function in depression: the role of performance strategies in aiding depressed and non-depressed participants.
OBJECTIVES: Depression has been found to be associated with dysfunction in executive processes, whereas relatively automatic processes are thought to remain intact. Failure to generate or implement adequate performance strategies has been postulated in depressed participants. The present study investigated spontaneous strategy usage in depressed and control participants, and the effectiveness of providing a hint about performance strategies. METHODS: Unipolar depressed participants were compared with matched healthy controls on three tasks sensitive to executive function: memory for categorised words, response suppression, and multiple scheduling. Participants in each group were randomly allocated to strategy aid and no strategy aid conditions. Those in the strategy aid condition were given a hint about the use of an appropriate performance strategy for each task, in addition to the standard instructions given to those in the no strategy aid condition. RESULTS: Depressed participants performed worse than controls on each of the three tasks, and were found to use appropriate performance strategies less often. Provision of strategy hints increased the use of performance strategies in two of the three tasks, memory for categorised words, and response suppression, but did not significantly improve overall performance for either group. CONCLUSIONS: The findings were consistent with the view that depressed participants fail to use appropriate performance strategies spontaneously to the same extent as controls. However, provision of information alone does not seem to be an adequate means of enhancing performance. The role of performance strategies in cognitive impairment in depression is discussed, both in terms of initiating use of such strategies and carrying these out efficiently. (+info)