Working memory refers to the retention of information in conscious awareness when this information is not present in the environment, to its manipulation, and to its use in guiding behavior. Working memory has been implicated as a critical contributor to such essential cognitive functions and properties as language comprehension, learning, planning, reasoning, and general fluid intelligence. Additionally, individual differences in working memory performance predict a remarkable array of "real world" outcome measures, from reading ability to standardized test performance to socioeconomic status to personality traits. Thus, understanding the cognitive and neural bases of working memory functions is central to understanding normal cognition, as well as its neurological and psychiatric dysfunctions. The PI's research program investigates the cognitive and neural bases of working memory function. It does so within a framework that holds that working memory is an emergent property that arises from the coordinated recruitment, via attention, of brain systems that have evolved to accomplish sensory-, representation-, or action-related functions.
The Specific Aims of the present application for renewal of the PI's R01 build on this work by articulating hypotheses than will support stronger inference than could those proposed in 2003 (due to the addition of novel multivariate methods for measuring functional connectivity and of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to the PI's methodological armamentarium), and by testing mechanistic hypotheses that have arisen from the PI's recent work. They are:
Specific Aim 1 : To test the hypothesis that working memory storage is supported by broadly distributed, functionally connected networks of regions posterior to the PFC.
Specific Aim 2 : To test the hypothesis that working memory storage is accomplished, in part, via the temporary activation of long-term memory (LTM) representations.
Specific Aim 3 : To test the hypothesis that the frontal eye fields (FEF) are a source of the attentional activation that supports working memory storage.

Public Health Relevance

Impairments of working memory are seen in many neurological, psychiatric, and developmental disorders. Achieving a better understanding of the cognitive and neurobiological organization of working memory functions, therefore, may have important implications for the diagnosis, clinical treatment, and cognitive rehabilitation of patients with these disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
Program Officer
Osborn, Bettina D
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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D'Esposito, Mark; Postle, Bradley R (2015) The cognitive neuroscience of working memory. Annu Rev Psychol 66:115-42
Kundu, Bornali; Johnson, Jeffrey S; Postle, Bradley R (2014) Trait-like differences in underlying oscillatory state predict individual differences in the TMS-evoked response. Brain Stimul 7:234-42
Larocque, Joshua J; Lewis-Peacock, Jarrod A; Postle, Bradley R (2014) Multiple neural states of representation in short-term memory? It's a matter of attention. Front Hum Neurosci 8:5
Gosseries, Olivia; Di, Haibo; Laureys, Steven et al. (2014) Measuring consciousness in severely damaged brains. Annu Rev Neurosci 37:457-78
Kundu, Bornali; Johnson, Jeffrey S; Postle, Bradley R (2014) Prestimulation phase predicts the TMS-evoked response. J Neurophysiol 112:1885-93
LaRocque, Joshua J; Lewis-Peacock, Jarrod A; Drysdale, Andrew T et al. (2013) Decoding attended information in short-term memory: an EEG study. J Cogn Neurosci 25:127-42
Kundu, Bornali; Sutterer, David W; Emrich, Stephen M et al. (2013) Strengthened effective connectivity underlies transfer of working memory training to tests of short-term memory and attention. J Neurosci 33:8705-15
Emrich, Stephen M; Riggall, Adam C; Larocque, Joshua J et al. (2013) Distributed patterns of activity in sensory cortex reflect the precision of multiple items maintained in visual short-term memory. J Neurosci 33:6516-23
Lewis-Peacock, Jarrod A; Postle, Bradley R (2012) Decoding the internal focus of attention. Neuropsychologia 50:470-8
Lewis-Peacock, Jarrod A; Drysdale, Andrew T; Oberauer, Klaus et al. (2012) Neural evidence for a distinction between short-term memory and the focus of attention. J Cogn Neurosci 24:61-79

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