Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Working memory is thought to include a mechanism that allows for the coding of order information. One question of interest is how order information is coded, and how that code is neurally implemented. Here we report both behavioral and fMRI findings from an experiment that involved comparing two tasks, an item-memory task and an order-memory task. In each case, five letters were presented for storage, followed after a brief interval by a set of probe letters. In the case of the item-memory task, the two letters were identical, and the subject responded to the question, “Was this letter one of the items you saw?”. In the case of the order-memory task, the letters were different, and subjects responded to the question, “Are these two letters in the order in which you saw them?”. Behaviorally, items that were further apart in the sequence elicited faster reaction times and higher accuracy in the Order task. Areas that were significantly more activated in the Order condition included the parietal and prefrontal cortex. Parietal activations overlapped those involved in number processing, leading to the suggestion that the underlying representation of order and numbers may share a common process, coding for magnitude.