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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 23 (2010), Issue 1-2, Pages 51-63

Modality Specific Cerebro-Cerebellar Activations in Verbal Working Memory: An fMRI Study

Matthew P. Kirschen,1,2 S. H. Annabel Chen,3,4 and John E. Desmond5

1Department of Radiology and Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA
2Neurosciences Program, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA
3Department and Graduate Institute of Psychology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
4Division of Psychology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
5Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

Received 12 August 2010; Accepted 12 August 2010

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Verbal working memory (VWM) engages frontal and temporal/parietal circuits subserving the phonological loop, as well as, superior and inferior cerebellar regions which have projections from these neocortical areas. Different cerebro-cerebellar circuits may be engaged for integrating aurally- and visually-presented information for VWM. The present fMRI study investigated load (2, 4, or 6 letters) and modality (auditory and visual) dependent cerebro-cerebellar VWM activation using a Sternberg task. FMRI revealed modality-independent activations in left frontal (BA 6/9/44), insular, cingulate (BA 32), and bilateral inferior parietal/supramarginal (BA 40) regions, as well as in bilateral superior (HVI) and right inferior (HVIII) cerebellar regions. Visual presentation evoked prominent activations in right superior (HVI/CrusI) cerebellum, bilateral occipital (BA19) and left parietal (BA7/40) cortex while auditory presentation showed robust activations predominately in bilateral temporal regions (BA21/22). In the cerebellum, we noted a visual to auditory emphasis of function progressing from superior to inferior and from lateral to medial regions. These results extend our previous findings of fMRI activation in cerebro-cerebellar networks during VWM, and demonstrate both modality dependent commonalities and differences in activations with increasing memory load.