Cognitive Neuroscience: Getting a Grasp on Working Memory

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Science  14 Mar 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5306, pp. 1580
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5306.1580

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Without it, you couldn't understand this sentence, add up a restaurant tab in your head, or even find your way home. The “it” is working memory, an erasable mental blackboard that allows you to hold briefly in your mind the information essential for comprehension, reasoning, and planning. Now, neurobiologists are beginning to identify the neural machinery underlying this critical ability. They have found that working memory relies on cooperation among scattered areas of the brain, with the prefrontal cortex apparently working as the orchestrator that coordinates the activity of these various regions.