Physiological activation of a cortical network during performance of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test: A positron emission tomography study

Karen Faith Berman, Jill L. Ostrem, Christopher Randolph, James Gold, Terry E. Goldberg, Richard Coppola, Richard E. Carson, Peter Herscovitch, Daniel R. Weinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

453 Scopus citations


To determine the neural circuitry engaged by performance of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), a neuropsychological test traditionally considered to be sensitive to prefrontal lesions, regional cerebral blood flow was measured with oxygen-15 water and positron emission tomography (PET) while young normal subjects performed the test as well as while they performed a specially designed sensorimotor control task. To consider which of the various cognitive operations and other experiential phenomena involved in the WCST PET scan are critical for the pattern of physiological activation and to focus on the working memory component of the test, repeat WCST scans were also performed on nine of the subjects after instruction on the test and practice to criteria. We confirmed that performance of the WCST engages the frontal cortex and also produces activation of a complex network of regions consistently including the inferior parietal lobule but also involving the visual association and inferior temporal cortices as well as portions of the cerebellum. The WCST activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) remained significant even after training and practice on the test, suggesting that working memory may be largely responsible for the physiological response in DLPFC during the WCST and, conversely, that the DLPFC plays a major role in modulating working memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1027-1046
Number of pages20
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Wisconsin Card Sorting Test
  • frontal lobe
  • positron emission tomography
  • prefrontal cortex
  • regional cerebral blood flow
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Physiological activation of a cortical network during performance of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test: A positron emission tomography study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this