We wanted to examine whether there are cortical fields active in short-term retention of sensory information, independent of the sensory modality. To control for selective attention, response selection and motor output, the cortical activity during short-term memory (STM) tasks was compared with that during detection (DT) tasks. Using positron emission tomography and [15O]-butanol as a tracer, we measured the regional cerebral blood flow in ten subjects during three STM tasks in which the subjects had to keep in mind: (i) the pitch of tones; (ii) frequencies of a vibrating stylus; and (iii) luminance levels of a monochrome light. Another group of ten subjects undertook three tasks in which subjects detected changes in similar stimuli. Six cortical fields were significantly more activated during STM than during DT. These fields were activated irrespective of sensory modality, and were located in the left inferior frontal gyrus, right superior frontal gyrus, right inferior parietal cortex, anterior cingulate, left frontal operculum and right ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Since the DT tasks and the STM tasks differed only with respect to the STM component, we conclude that the neuronal activity specifically related to retention of the stimuli during the delays was located in these six multi-modal cortical areas. Since no differences were observed in the sensory-specific association cortices, the results indicate further that the activity in the sensory-specific association cortices due to selective attention is not different from the activity underlying short-term retention of sensory information.