Neural Basis of Protracted Developmental Changes in Visuo-Spatial Working Memory


Developmental studies show that visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM)—maintaining and manipulating spatial information on line—improves throughout childhood and into young adulthood.


To study the neural basis of VSWM development, 23 individuals performed 2-back VSWM tasks during fMRI scans. Of the 23 individuals, there were 8 children, 8 adolescents, and 7 adults (9 M/14 F, range 7-22 years).



Coronal views (left) and surface rendering (below) showing significant activation with age during WM.

Significant activation in:

  • L, R dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex
  • L ventral lateral prefrontal cortex
  • L premotor cortex
  • L, R posterior parietal cortex

Age rather than accuracy or response time most significantly predicted activation.


2 areas involved in VSWM mature together:

  • Right hemisphere visuo-spatial attentional system
  • Left hemisphere phonological storage and rehearsal system

Visually and verbally mediated mnemonic processes develop concurrently during childhood and adolescence into young adulthood


Kwon H, Reiss AL, Menon V. (2000). "Neural basis of protracted developmental changes in visuo-spatial working memory." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 1;99(20):13336-41.
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