Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Activation of the prefrontal cortex improves working memory

This is an innovative view of the neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive control and opens up new lines of research

Psychologists and neurologists invest considerable effort in the study of working memory.

In terms of information retention, there is a difference between long-term memory, which is affected in diseases such as Alzheimer, and short-term or working memory, which allows us to make immediate decisions or structure a discourse. This more ephemeral memory is affected in diseases such as schizophrenia and depression, although a cause-effect relationship has not been established.

People with a higher working-memory capacity score higher on intelligence tests and, for this reason, it is thought that it may be intimately linked to people's cognitive ability. A study by IDIBAPS uses computational systems neurobiology models and functional magnetic resonance imaging scans to show that there are two parts of the cerebral cortex with highly differentiated roles implicated in this type of memory.

The results of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), in an article headed by Dr. Albert Compte of the Systems Neuroscience team of the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), and with Fredrik Edin as the first author. This study was carried out in collaboration with two other laboratories of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, led by professors Torkel Klingberg and Jesper Tegnér.

Thanks to complex computer algorithms, it is possible to simulate a virtual network in which a large number of neurons interact. These models can simulate the functioning of the structures in our brains. According to the computer model published in PNAS, when the working memory needs to be increased, the prefrontal cortex reinforces the activation of the parietal cortex, in which the information is temporarily stored.

A brief stimulus that reaches the parietal cortex generates a reverberating activation that maintains a subpopulation active, while inhibitory interactions with neurons further away (lateral inhibition) prevents activation of the entire network. This lateral inhibition is also responsible for limiting the mnemonic capacity of the parietal network. The reinforcement of the parietal cortex by the prefrontal cortex prevents its inhibition, thereby temporarily improving working memory.

To verify this hypothesis, 25 healthy individuals carried out simple visual-memory tests while inside a functional magnetic resonance scanner. The differences in their ability to complete the exercises were linked to the intensity of activation of the prefrontal cortex and to their interconnection with the parietal cortex. The IDIBAPS and Karolinska researchers thus confirmed the hypothesis formulated based on the computer model. The more the prefrontal cortex is activated, the greater the capacity of the parietal cortex for retaining short-term visual information - an indicator of working-memory capacity.

This study explains many diverse results that have been obtained in recent years in psychology and neuroimaging studies on working memory. This is an innovative view of the neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive control and opens up new lines of research. Clinical studies will be needed to determine whether the stimulus of the prefrontal cortex, or its training by means of memory exercises and games, can have an effect on diseases in which working memory is damaged, such as depression or schizophrenia.

Alex Argemi | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Here comes the long-sought-after iron-munching microbe
25.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques
25.10.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First-time reconstruction of infectious bat influenza viruses

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Amazon rain helps make more rain

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>