Minamoto, T., Tsubomi, H., & Osaka, N.
Neural mechanisms of individual differences in working memory capacity: Observations from functional neuroimaging studies
Current Directions in Psychological Science,2017, 26, 335-345.
Working memory capacity (WMC) indicates an individual’s capability of executive attentional control, which is thought to be critical for general fluid intelligence. Individual variability in WMC has been attributed to the function of the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC); however, it is still less clear how the lPFC contributes to individual differences in WMC. Referring to functional neuroimaging studies, we consider three possible neural mechanisms. First, greater task related activity of the lPFC predicts higher WMC across tasks. Second, a specific task-related functional connectivity also predicts higher WMC. The lPFC consistently forms a part of the connectivity while the coupled region varies depending on tasks. Thus, WMC is reflected by not a fixed but flexible connectivity regulated by the lPFC. Third, distinctive intrinsic connectivity even during resting state is also responsible for individual differences in WMC, with the lPFC seated at a critical hub within the network. These three neural mechanisms differentially contribute to WMC, and therefore, complementarily explain individual differences in WMC.