Prolonged reaction time to a verbal working memory task predicts increased power of posterior parietal cortical activation.Neuroimage. 2000 Nov; 12(5):495-503.N
We used multislice functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the association between behavioral and neurophysiological measures of working memory task performance in 20 right-handed male healthy volunteers. Images were acquired over a 5-min period at 1.5 Tesla. We used a periodic design, alternating 30-s blocks of the "n-back" working memory task with 30-s blocks of a sensorimotor control task to activate verbal working memory systems. The power of functional response to the task was estimated by sinusoidal regression at each voxel. The relationship between power of fMRI response and mean reaction time over all 11 working memory trials was explored by multiple regression, with age and mean reaction time to the control task as covariates, at voxel and regional levels of analysis. All subjects were able to perform the n-back task accurately. A spatially distributed network was activated, including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, lateral premotor cortex, and supplementary motor area (SMA) in the frontal lobes. More posteriorly, there were major foci of activation in parietal and occipitoparietal cortex, precuneus, lingual, and fusiform gyri of the ventral occipital lobe, inferior temporal gyrus, and cerebellum. The power of functional response was positively correlated with reaction time in bilateral posterior parietal cortex (Talairach coordinates in x, y, z (mm) 35, -44, 37 and -32, -56, 42), indicating that subjects who found the task difficult, and responded with a slower reaction time, tended to activate these regions more powerfully. One interpretation of this regionally specific relationship between prolonged reaction time and increased power of posterior parietal activation is consistent with prior studies identifying similar areas of parietal cortex as the site of the phonological storage function in verbal working memory.