Encoding strategies dissociate prefrontal activity from working memory demand

Daniel Bor, John Duncan, Richard J. Wiseman, Adrian M. Owen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    284 Citations (Scopus)


    It is often proposed that prefrontal cortex is important in organization and control of working memory contents. In some cases, effective reorganization can decrease task difficulty, implying a dissociation between frontal activity and basic memory demand. In a spatial working memory task, we studied the improvement of performance that occurs when materials can be reorganized into higher level groups or chunks. Structured sequences, encouraging reorganization and chunking, were compared with unstructured sequences. Though structured sequences were easier to remember, event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed increased activation of lateral frontal cortex, in particular during memory encoding. The results show that, even when memory demand decreases, organization of working memory contents into higher level chunks is associated with increased prefrontal activity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)361-367
    Number of pages7
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2003


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