Temporal dynamics of visual working memory


The involvement of the human cerebellum in working memory has been well established in the last decade. However, the cerebro-cerebellar network for visual working memory is not as well defined. Our previous fMRI study showed superior and inferior cerebellar activations during a block design visual working memory task, but specific cerebellar contributions to cognitive processes in encoding, maintenance and retrieval have not yet been established. The current study examined cerebellar contributions to each of the components of visual working memory and presence of cerebellar hemispheric laterality was investigated. 40 young adults performed a Sternberg visual working memory task during fMRI scanning using a parametric paradigm. The contrast between high and low memory load during each phase was examined. We found that the most prominent activation was observed in vermal lobule VIIIb and bilateral lobule VI during encoding. Using a quantitative laterality index, we found that left-lateralized activation of lobule VIIIa was present in the encoding phase. In the maintenance phase, there was bilateral lobule VI and right-lateralized lobule VIIb activity. Changes in activation in right lobule VIIIa were present during the retrieval phase. The current results provide evidence that superior and inferior cerebellum contributes to visual working memory, with a tendency for left-lateralized activations in the inferior cerebellum during encoding and right-lateralized lobule VIIb activations during maintenance. The results of the study are in agreement with Baddeley’s multi-component working memory model, but also suggest that stored visual representations are additionally supported by maintenance mechanisms that may employ verbal coding.

Sobczak-Edmans, M., Ng, H. B. T., Chan, Y. C., Chew, E., Chuang, K. H., & Chen, S. H. A. (2016). Temporal dynamics of visual working memory. NeuroImage, 124, 1021-1030. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.09.038
Annabel Chen
Annabel Chen
Professor of Psychology
Lab Director

Dr. SH Annabel Chen is a clinical neuropsychologist, and currently a Faculty member of Psychology at the School of Social Sciences.