Neuroimaging of working memory dysfunction and the dilemma with brain reorganization hypotheses

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88 Scopus citations


There is a growing literature examining working memory deficits using functional imaging and there has been great convergence in the findings, to date, but interpretations have varied. Investigators consistently observed recruitment of neural resources in clinical samples, with some examiners attributing these findings to neural inefficiency and others attributing differences to neural compensation and/or brain reorganization. It is the goal of this paper to address the current interpretation of altered brain activation in clinical imaging studies of working memory dysfunction with specific emphasis on findings in prefrontal cortex (PFC). Throughout this review, the methods used to examine brain reorganization associated with working memory dysfunction are critiqued with the goal of understanding how study design has influenced data interpretation. It is proposed that much of what has been considered "aberrant" neural activity is not indicative of neural compensation, as it has been typically defined, and does not represent brain reorganization. Instead, recruitment of neural resources in PFC can be explained by a natural, and largely overlooked, role of cognitive control in accommodating neural dysfunction secondary to brain injury and disease. This paper provides predictions based on this proposition and a critique of the current methods available for testing these predictions. © 2008

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-534
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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