Phonological Working Memory for Words and Nonwords in Cerebral Cortex Purpose The primary purpose of this study was to identify the brain bases of phonological working memory (the short-term maintenance of speech sounds) using behavioral tasks analogous to clinically sensitive assessments of nonword repetition. The secondary purpose of the study was to identify how individual differences in brain activation were ... Research Article
Research Article  |   July 12, 2017
Phonological Working Memory for Words and Nonwords in Cerebral Cortex
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Tyler K. Perrachione
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
    Boston University, MA
  • Satrajit S. Ghosh
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
    Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • Irina Ostrovskaya
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
    Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • John D. E. Gabrieli
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
    Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • Ioulia Kovelman
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Tyler K. Perrachione: tkp@bu.edu
  • Editor: Sean Redmond
    Editor: Sean Redmond×
  • Associate Editor: Michael Dickey
    Associate Editor: Michael Dickey×
Article Information
Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   July 12, 2017
Phonological Working Memory for Words and Nonwords in Cerebral Cortex
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, July 2017, Vol. 60, 1959-1979. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-15-0446
History: Received December 29, 2015 , Revised May 25, 2016 , Accepted October 27, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, July 2017, Vol. 60, 1959-1979. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-15-0446
History: Received December 29, 2015; Revised May 25, 2016; Accepted October 27, 2016

Purpose The primary purpose of this study was to identify the brain bases of phonological working memory (the short-term maintenance of speech sounds) using behavioral tasks analogous to clinically sensitive assessments of nonword repetition. The secondary purpose of the study was to identify how individual differences in brain activation were related to participants' nonword repetition abilities.

Method We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure neurophysiological response during a nonword discrimination task derived from standard clinical assessments of phonological working memory. Healthy adult control participants (N = 16) discriminated pairs of real words or nonwords under varying phonological working memory load, which we manipulated by parametrically varying the number of syllables in target (non)words. Participants' cognitive and phonological abilities were also measured using standardized assessments.

Results Neurophysiological responses in bilateral superior temporal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, and supplementary motor area increased with greater phonological working memory load. Activation in left superior temporal gyrus during nonword discrimination correlated with participants' performance on standard clinical nonword repetition tests.

Conclusion These results suggest that phonological working memory is related to the function of cortical structures that canonically underlie speech perception and production.

Acknowledgments
Research in this report was supported by the Ellison Medical Foundation and by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders under Grant R01DC011339 to J.G. T.P. was supported in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R03DC014045. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. We thank Patricia Saxler, John Lymberis, Elizabeth Norton, Sonia Cosman, Cindy Gibbs, Sheeba Arnold, Steve Shannon, and Christina Triantafyllou. Imaging was performed at the Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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