Get access

The Functional Organization of Working Memory Processes Within Human Lateral Frontal Cortex: The Contribution of Functional Neuroimaging


  • Adrian M. Owen

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry and Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, Box 189, Addenbrooke's Hospital, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK
    • Adrian M. Owen, MRC Applied Psychology Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 2EF, UK

    Search for more papers by this author


Recent functional neuroimaging studies have provided a wealth of new information about the likely organization of working memory processes within the human lateral frontal cprtex. This article seeks to evaluate the results of these studies in the context of two contrasting theoretical models of lateral frontal-lobe function, developed through lesion and electrophysiological recording work in non-human primates (Goldman-Rakic, 1994, 1995; Petrides, 1994, 1995). Both models focus on a broadly similar distinction between anatomically and cytoarchitectonically distinct dorsolateral and ventrolateral frontal cortical areas, but differ in the precise functions ascribed to those regions. Following a review of the relevant anatomical data, the origins of these two theoretical positions are considered in some detail and the main predictions arising from each are identified. Recent functional neuroimaging studies of working memory processes are then critically reviewed in order to assess the extent to which they support either, or both, sets of predictions. The results of this meta-analysis suggest that lateral regions of the frontal lobe are not functionally organized according to stimulus modality, as has been widely assumed, but that specific regions within the dorsolateral or ventrolateral frontal cortex make identical functional contributions to both spatial and non-spatial working memory.

Get access to the full text of this article