Prefrontal Cortex Asymmetry for Memory Encoding of Words and Abstract Shapes

Agnes Floel, David Poeppel, Elizabeth A. Buffalo, Allen Braun, Carolyn W.H. Wu, Hyae Jung Seo, Katja Stefan, Stefan Knecht, Leonardo G. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous work suggested a differential contribution of prefrontal cortex (PFC) to successful encoding depending on the stimulus material. Here, we tested the hypothesis that encoding of words preferentially involves the left PFC, while encoding of nonverbal items (abstract shapes) relies on the right PFC. We used an experimental design that evaluated encoding of both words and abstract shapes in the same healthy volunteers. A transient virtual lesion of the left or the right PFC was elicited with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) while subjects memorized verbal and nonverbal items. We found that encoding of verbal material was disrupted by left PFC stimulation, whereas encoding of nonverbal material was disrupted by right PFC stimulation. These results demonstrate a functionally relevant lateralization of prefrontal contribution for verbal and nonverbal memory encoding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-409
Number of pages6
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Episodic memory
  • Frontal cortex
  • Nonverbal
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Verbal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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