Working memory

Leslie Ungerleider, Susan Courtney-Faruqee

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Working memory is a complex concept that underlies much of our higher cognitive abilities. It involves the selection, temporary storage, manipulation and use of currently relevant information. Unlike long-term memory, only a very limited amount of information can be held in working memory at one time. Researchers have tried to measure this capacity of working memory, but the answer to that question depends on the type of information one is trying to remember and the way that the memory is tested. Working memory, particularly its executive component, seems to depend on the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain has internal circuits that can sustain patterns of neural activity for a longer time than can other parts of the brain, resulting in flexible representations that can be protected from being over-written by new sensory inputs. The prefrontal cortex also receives converging inputs from many different brain regions, enabling it to integrate and manipulate multiple pieces of information from the past and use that information to guide future behavior in new situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeuroscience in the 21st Century: From Basic to Clinical, Second Edition
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781493934744
ISBN (Print)9781493934737
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Brain imaging methods
  • Capacity
  • Distributed population code
  • Executive
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Information storage
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Recoding
  • Short-term memory
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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