The neural basis of task-switching in working memory: Effects of performance and aging

  • Smith E
  • Geva A
  • Jonides J
 et al. 
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We studied the performance of young and senior subjects on a
well known working memory task, the Operation Span. This is a dual-task
in which subjects perform a memory task while simultaneously verifying
simple equations. Positron-emission tomography scans were taken during
performance. Both young and senior subjects demonstrated a cost in
accuracy and latency in the Operation Span compared with performing
each component task alone (math verification or memory only). Senior
subjects were disproportionately impaired relative to young subjects on
the dual-task. When brain activation was examined for senior subjects,
we found regions in prefrontal cortex that were active in the
dual-task, but not in the component tasks. Similar results were
obtained for young subjects who performed relatively poorly on the
dual-task; however, for young subjects who performed relatively well in
the dual-task, we found no prefrontal regions that were active only in
the dual-task. Results are discussed as they relate to the executive
component of task switching.

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  • Edward E. Smith

  • Anat Geva

  • John Jonides

  • Andrea Miller

  • Patricia Reuter-Lorenz

  • Robert A. Koeppe

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