Differences in Regional Brain Activities during Memory Acquisition Depending on Individual Working Memory Capacity

Hong-Seng Gan, Tatsuya Suzuki, Koichi Yokosawa, Yumie Ono
Vol. 8 (2019) p.23-29

Individual capacity of recall memory varies greatly even among healthy young adults. Nevertheless, the difference in brain circuitry underlying varied memory capacity has yet to be fully investigated. We acquired electroencephalographic measurements from 43 healthy young adults while performing a demanding working memory task and studied the changes in regional cortical activity in relation to different levels of memory performance. The memory task involved sequentially presenting seven arrow pictures to a participant during the encoding period, who was then asked to recall the direction of one of the arrows in the sequence within the retrieval period. We divided the participants into three groups of high, intermediate, and low performance based on the weighted hierarchical grouping method. Regional brain activities were source-localized using multiple sparse priors method in the high- and low-performance groups, and group differences were determined by non-parametric permutation tests. Our findings showed that participants with higher memory performance exhibited wider distribution of cortical activity including the prefrontal and parieto-posterior cortices, whereas lower performance participants only exhibited stable activations across occipital regions. The results implied the importance of selective attention in order to attain optimal individual working memory performance. Furthermore, we suggest the potential role of the angular gyrus as an interplay between the prefrontal and posterior regions for the management of stimulus flow and signal control. Future works should focus on conducting more thorough connectivity analysis to investigate the relationship of cortical activations with individual working memory performance.