Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Activation of the prefrontal cortex improves working memory

03.04.2009
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:
http://www.clinic.ub.es
http://www.idibaps.ub.edu
http://www.hospitalclinic.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Colorectal cancer risk factors decrypted
13.07.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung

nachricht Algae Have Land Genes
13.07.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>