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Evidence of a modality-dependent role of the cerebellum in working memory? An fMRI study comparing verbal and abstract n-back tasks

Department of Nuclear Medicine (KME), Forschungszentrum Jülich 52426, Jülich, Germany.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 07/2009; 47(4):2073-82. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.06.005
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ABSTRACT In working memory (WM), functional imaging studies demonstrate cerebellar involvement indicating a cognitive role of the cerebellum. These cognitive contributions were predominantly interpreted as part of the phonological loop within the Baddeley model of WM. However, those underlying investigations were performed in the context of visual verbal WM which could pose a bias when interpreting the results. The aim of this fMRI study was to address the question of whether the cerebellum supports additional aspects of WM in the context of higher cognitive functions. Furthermore, laterality effects were investigated to further disentangle the cerebellar role in the context of the phonological loop and the visuospatial sketchpad. A direct comparison of verbal and abstract visual WM was performed in 17 young volunteers by applying a 2-back paradigm and extracting the % change in BOLD signal from the fMRI data. To minimize potential verbal strategies, Attneave and Arnoult shapes of non-nameable objects were chosen for the abstract condition. The analyses revealed no significant differences in verbal vs. abstract WM. Moreover, no laterality effects were demonstrated in both verbal and abstract WM. These results provide further evidence of a broader cognitive involvement of the cerebellum in WM that is not only confined to the phonological loop but also supports central executive subfunctions. The fact that no lateralization effects are found might be attributed to the characteristics of the n-back paradigm which emphasizes central executive subfunctions over the subsidiary slave systems.

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Available from: Hubertus Hautzel, Aug 31, 2015
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    • "The results of the present study suggest that subjects with ADHD and alcohol-dependent subjects share dysfunctions in a frontal-parietal-cerebellar network subserving working memory [91], [92], as measured by their impaired n-back task performance relative to controls. Additionally, we were able to demonstrate that both clinical groups display an emotional interference control deficit, and this deficit is even more pronounced in subjects with ADHD. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives To effectively manage current task demands, attention must be focused on task-relevant information while task-irrelevant information is rejected. However, in everyday life, people must cope with emotions, which may interfere with actual task demands and may challenge functional attention allocation. Control of interfering emotions has been associated with the proper functioning of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). As DLPFC dysfunction is evident in subjects with ADHD and in subjects with alcohol dependence, the current study sought to examine the bottom-up effect of emotional distraction on task performance in both disorders. Methods Male adults with ADHD (n = 22), male adults with alcohol dependence (n = 16), and healthy controls (n = 30) performed an emotional working memory task (n-back task). In the background of the task, we presented neutral and negative stimuli that varied in emotional saliency. Results In both clinical groups, a working memory deficit was evident. Moreover, both clinical groups displayed deficient emotional interference control. The n-back performance of the controls was not affected by the emotional distractors, whereas that of subjects with ADHD deteriorated in the presence of low salient distractors, and that of alcoholics did not deteriorate until high salient distractors were presented. Subsequent to task performance, subjects with ADHD accurately recognized more distractors than did alcoholics and controls. In alcoholics, picture recognition accuracy was negatively associated with n-back performance, suggesting a functional association between the ability to suppress emotional distractors and successful task performance. In subjects with ADHD, performance accuracy was negatively associated with ADHD inattentive symptoms, suggesting that inattention contributes to the performance deficit. Conclusions Subjects with ADHD and alcoholics both display an emotional interference control deficit, which is especially pronounced in subjects with ADHD. Beyond dysfunctional attention allocation processes, a more general attention deficit seems to contribute to the more pronounced performance deficit pattern in ADHD.
    PLoS ONE 09/2014; 9(9):e107750. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0107750 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Another interesting implication for the capacity of Purkinje cells to provide predictions and feedback at a wide range of times is in working memory. Numerous functional imaging studies demonstrate cerebellar activation associated with the working memory system (Chen and Desmond, 2005; Hautzel et al., 2009; Marvel and Desmond, 2010). Given that the storage capacity of working memory is limited to between four and seven items (Miller, 1956; Luck and Vogel, 1997), the changes in its content associated with shifting attention focus occurs every 200–500 ms (Muller et al., 1998; Woodman and Luck, 1999). "
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    ABSTRACT: Historically the cerebellum has been implicated in the control of movement. However, the cerebellum’s role in non-motor functions, including cognitive and emotional processes, has also received increasing attention. Starting from the premise that the uniform architecture of the cerebellum underlies a common mode of information processing, this review examines recent electrophysiological findings on the motor signals encoded in the cerebellar cortex and then relates these signals to observations in the non-motor domain. Simple spike firing of individual Purkinje cells encodes performance errors, both predicting upcoming errors as well as providing feedback about those errors. Further, this dual temporal encoding of prediction and feedback involves a change in the sign of the simple spike modulation. Therefore, Purkinje cell simple spike firing both predicts and responds to feedback about a specific parameter, consistent with computing sensory prediction errors in which the predictions about the consequences of a motor command are compared with the feedback resulting from the motor command execution. These new findings are in contrast with the historical view that complex spikes encode errors. Evaluation of the kinematic coding in the simple spike discharge shows the same dual temporal encoding, suggesting this is a common mode of signal processing in the cerebellar cortex. Decoding analyses show the considerable accuracy of the predictions provided by Purkinje cells across a range of times. Further, individual Purkinje cells encode linearly and independently a multitude of signals, both kinematic and performance errors. Therefore, the cerebellar cortex’s capacity to make associations across different sensory, motor and non-motor signals is large. The results from studying how Purkinje cells encode movement signals suggest that the cerebellar cortex circuitry can support associative learning, sequencing, working memory, and forward internal models in non-motor domains
    Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 06/2014; 8:113. DOI:10.3389/fnsys.2014.00113
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    • "Laterality effect in the verbal n-back tasks may have been overridden by dominating central executive contributions of the cerebellum (Hautzel et al., 2009). Results imply that n-back tasks are not ideal for examining lateralized activation. "
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    ABSTRACT: The first aim of the present study was to extend previous findings of similar cerebellar cortical areas being involved in verbal and spatial n-back working memory to the level of the cerebellar nuclei. The second aim was to investigate whether different areas of the cerebellar cortex and nuclei contribute to different working memory tasks (n-back vs. Sternberg tasks). Young and healthy subjects participated in two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies using a 7 T MR scanner with its increased signal-to-noise ratio. One group of subjects (n=21) performed an abstract and a verbal version of an n-back task contrasting a 2-back and 0-back condition. Another group of subjects (n=23) performed an abstract and a verbal version of a Sternberg task contrasting a high load and a low load condition. A block design was used. For image processing of the dentate nuclei, a recently developed region of interest (ROI) driven normalization method of the dentate nuclei was applied (Diedrichsen et al., 2011). Whereas activated areas of the cerebellar cortex and dentate nuclei were not significantly different comparing the abstract and verbal versions of the n-back task, activation in the abstract and verbal Sternberg tasks was significantly different. In both n-back tasks activation was most prominent at the border of lobules VI and Crus I, within lobule VII, and within the more caudal parts of the dentate nucleus bilaterally. In Sternberg tasks the most prominent activations were found in lobule VI extending into Crus I on the right. In the verbal Sternberg task activation was significantly larger within right lobule VI compared to the abstract Sternberg task and compared to the verbal n-back task. Activations of rostral parts of the dentate were most prominent in the verbal Sternberg task, whereas activation of caudal parts predominated in the abstract Sternberg task. On the one hand, the lack of difference between abstract and verbal n-back tasks and the lack of significant lateralization suggest a more general contribution of the cerebellum to working memory regardless of the modality. On the other hand, the focus of activation in right lobule VI in the verbal Sternberg task suggests specific cerebellar contributions to verbal working memory. The verbal Sternberg task emphasizes maintenance of stimuli via phonological rehearsal, whereas central executive demands prevail in n-back tasks. Based on the model of working memory by Baddeley and Hitch (1974), the present results show that different regions of the cerebellum support functions of the central executive system and one of the subsidiary systems, the phonological loop.
    NeuroImage 05/2012; 62(3):1537-50. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.05.037 · 6.36 Impact Factor
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