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The prefrontal cortex plays a critical role in working memory, the active maintenance of information for brief periods of time for guiding future motor and cognitive processes. Two competing models have emerged to account for the growing human and non-human primate literature examining the functional neuroanatomy of working memory. One theory holds that the lateral frontal cortex plays a domain-specific role in working memory with the dorsolateral and ventrolateral cortical regions supporting working memory for spatial and non-spatial material, respectively. Alternatively, the lateral frontal cortex may play a process-specific role with the more dorsal regions becoming recruited whenever active manipulation or monitoring of information in working memory becomes necessary. Many working memory tasks do not allow for direct tests of these competing models. The present study used a novel self-ordered working memory task and positron emission tomography to identify whether dorsal or ventral lateral cortical areas are recruited during a working memory task that required extensive monitoring of non-spatial information held within working memory. We observed increased blood flow in the right dorsolateral, but not ventrolateral, prefrontal cortex. Increases in blood flow in the dorsolateral region correlated strongly with task performance. Thus, the results support the process-specific hypothesis.
BACKGROUND - Spatial working memory dysfunction has been suggested to be a cardinal feature of schizophrenia. But schizophrenia is heterogeneous in its clinical profile, course, and outcome. One fundamental contributor to this heterogeneity may be gender. No report has yet addressed gender differences in spatial working memory, as measured by the delayed-response task (DRT).
METHODS - We aggregated data from three previously published studies of spatial working memory in schizophrenia and also collected DRT data from a new sample of subjects in order to examine potential gender differences in DRT performance.
RESULTS - As previously reported, schizophrenia patients (n = 71) showed deficits in spatial working memory relative to normal control subjects (n = 213), however, no within-group or between-group gender differences were present.
CONCLUSIONS - These findings provide evidence for the absence of gender differences in spatial working memory function.
Evidence for viewpoint-specific image-based object representations have been collected almost entirely using exemplar-specific recognition tasks. Recent results, however, implicate image-based processes in more categorical tasks, for instance when objects contain qualitatively different 3D parts. Although such discriminations approximate class-level recognition. they do not establish whether image-based representations can support generalization across members of an object class. This issue is critical to any theory of recognition, in that one hallmark of human visual competence is the ability to recognize unfamiliar instances of a familiar class. The present study addresses this questions by testing whether viewpoint-specific representations for some members of a class facilitate the recognition of other members of that class. Experiment 1 demonstrates that familiarity with several members of a class of novel 3D objects generalizes in a viewpoint-dependent manner to cohort objects from the same class. Experiment 2 demonstrates that this generalization is based on the degree of familiarity and the degree of geometrical distinctiveness for particular viewpoints. Experiment 3 demonstrates that this generalization is restricted to visually-similar objects rather than all objects learned in a given context. These results support the hypothesis that image-based representations are viewpoint dependent, but that these representations generalize across members of perceptually-defined classes. More generally, these results provide evidence for a new approach to image-based recognition in which object classes are represented as cluster of visually-similar viewpoint-specific representations.
Can visual similarity between shapes facilitate orientation priming? Five experiments are reported in which this possibility was explored by using novel two-dimensional shapes that formed homogeneous stimulus classes. After training on individual shapes in a canonical view, the recognition of these shapes was tested in several picture-plane orientations. In experiments 1 and 2 an identification task was used to replicate the classic finding obtained with the mirror-judgment task-that prior orientation cueing does not reduce the magnitude of orientation dependence in processing rotated shapes. The results of experiment 3, however, indicate that blocking trials by orientation is one condition in which orientation priming may be obtained. Experiment 4 builds on this result, and it is suggested that awareness of the blocking manipulation is not required to obtain orientation priming. In experiment 5 the mechanisms underlying this finding are explored, and evidence is offered that orientation priming is a consequence of representations that encode both shape and orientation. Such results may be considered as an extension to the 'image-based' approach to object recognition, demonstrating that generalization across exemplars may occur within recognition mechanisms that are viewpoint dependent.
Berman and Noble (1995) reported significantly reduced visuospatial performance in children with the TAQI A1 allele of the D2 dopamine receptor (DRD2) gene. Given that visuospatial performance loads highly on an unrotated principal component indexing general cognitive ability, we tested the association between DRD2 and WISC-R IQ comparing 51 high-IQ, 51 average-IQ, and 35 low-IQ children in the IQ Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) Project. No statistically significant association between the TAQI A DRD2 alleles and IQ was found. Given that a statistically significant portion of genetic variance for specific cognitive abilities is independent of general cognitive ability, it is possible that the TAQI DRD2 association is specific to visuospatial performance and independent of general cognitive ability.
This study replicates our earlier findings that schizophrenic but not bipolar patients are impaired on oculomotor delayed response tasks, analogous to those used to assess spatial working memory functions of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in monkeys (Park and Holzman, 1992). In addition, we examined the relation between working memory deficits and smooth pursuit eye movement (SPEM) dysfunction, since data from human neuropsychological and animal lesion studies implicate prefrontal pathology in both deficits. Schizophrenic patients showed marked deficits in the oculomotor memory task and the SPEM task relative to the control groups. However, they were not impaired on the oculomotor sensory task in which their responses were guided by external cues rather than by working memory. This result from outpatients replicates our earlier study which was conducted with inpatients. Within the schizophrenic group those patients with good eye tracking performed better than those with impaired pursuit on the oculomotor memory task but there was no correlation between SPEM and performance on the sensory task. These findings support the hypothesis that schizophrenics show a deficit in representational processes and add to the growing evidence for involvement of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in schizophrenic pathology.