A common prefrontal-parietal network for mnemonic and mathematical recoding strategies within working memory.


Previous studies have indicated that the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is closely involved in strategic recoding, even when such processes lessen task demands. For example, 2 studies presented, in the spatial and verbal domains, sequences of stimuli for participants to retain during a short interval and then retrieve. Stimuli were either randomly arranged or structured (forming symmetries and regular shapes for the spatial task and mathematical patterns for the verbal task). Although participants performed the structured tasks better by reorganizing or "chunking" them into more efficient forms, LPFC activity was greater for the structured compared with the random sequences. However, although these results demonstrate that LPFC is involved in strategic recoding, regardless of the type of modality, it remains to be seen whether such a result generalizes to different types of strategic recoding processes. To test this, we presented digit sequence trials that separately emphasized mnemonic or mathematical recoding strategies. While participants were able to gain a performance benefit from either type of recoding strategy, increased LPFC activity was observed for both mathematical and mnemonic recoding trials, compared with either unstructured sequences or control conditions matched for mathematical or mnemonic processes. However, mathematically structured trials activated the LPFC significantly more than mnemonic recoding trials. In addition, lateral posterior parietal cortex was consistently coactivated with LPFC for strategic recoding trials, both in the current experiments and in previous related studies. We conclude that a prefrontal-parietal network is involved in strategic recoding in working memory, regardless of the type of recoding process.