Differential activation of the caudate nucleus in primates performing spatial and nonspatial working memory tasks

Richard Levy, Harriet R. Friedman, Lila Davachi, Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic

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The caudate nucleus is part of an anatomical network subserving functions associated with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the metabolic activity in the striatum reflects specific changes in working memory tasks, which are known to be dependent on the DLPFC, and whether these changes reflect the topographic ordering of prefrontal connections within the striatum. Local cerebral glucose utilization (LCGU) rates were assessed in the striatum by the 14C-2-deoxyglucose method in monkeys that performed a spatial (delayed spatial alternation), a nonspatial (delayed object alternation) visual working memory task, or tasks that did not involve working memory, i.e., a visual pattern discrimination or sensorimotor paradigm. The results show a topographic segregation of activation related to spatial and nonspatial working memory, respectively. The delayed spatial alternation task increases LCGU rates bilaterally by 33-43% in the head of the caudate nucleus, where efferents from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex project most densely. The delayed object alternation task enhances LCGU rates bilaterally by 32-37% in the body of the caudate nucleus, which is innervated by the temporal cortex. The visual pattern discrimination task similarly activated the body of the caudate, but in a smaller region and only in the right hemisphere. These findings provide the first evidence for metabolic activation of the caudate nuclei in working memory, supporting the role of this nucleus as a node in a neural network mediating DLPFC-dependent working memory processes. The double dissociation of activation observed suggests an anatomical and functional segregation of cortico-striatal circuits subserving spatial and nonspatial cognitive operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3870-3882
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1997


  • 2-deoxyglucose
  • caudate nucleus
  • metabolic activity
  • prefrontal cortex
  • primates
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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