The neural correlates of human working memory for haptically explored object orientations.

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Abstract

Skillful object manipulation requires that haptically explored spatial object characteristics like orientation be adequately represented in working memory. In the current functional magnetic resonance imaging study, healthy right-handed participants explored a barshaped reference object with the left hand, memorizing its orientation. After a variable delay (0.5, 5, or 10 s), participants used their right hand to match the orientation by rotating a second, identical object. In the first seconds of the delay, right sensorimotor cortex was active, whereas clusters in left anterior prefrontal cortex (aPFC) (Brodmann area 10) became dominant 2 s after the end of exploration, showing sustained activity for several seconds. In contrast, left parieto-occipital cortex was involved toward the end of the delay interval. Our results indicate that a dynamic network of brain areas subserves hapticospatial information processing in the delay between haptic stimulus exploration and orientation matching. We propose that haptic sensory traces, maintained in contralateral sensorimotor cortex, are transformed into more abstract hapticospatial representations in the early delay stages. Maintenance of these representations engages aPFC and parieto-occipital cortex. Whereas aPFC possibly integrates spatial and motor components of hapticospatial working memory, parieto-occipital cortex might he involved in orientation imagery, supporting working memory, and the preparation of haptic matching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1637-1649
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume17
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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