Working Memory

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Working Memory

Basic Characteristics

  • Description

Working memory is most easily defined as our ability to maintain and manipulate information over short periods of time. The term working memory is often referred to as a unitary construct although many professionals agree that working memory is a combination of different component processes. A more comprehensive description of working memory is that it is a system or mechanism where information is represented, maintained, and updated for a short period of time. Here the process of maintaining representation active above the threshold so that the activation of information relevant to the current task can be maintained under the focus of attention is emphasized. A number of theories exist as to the structure of working memory although Baddeley's theory of working memory is considered one of the most influential. Baddeley's theory of working memory contends that there are four major components to working memory. The first is a short term storage buffer for visual information that is often referred to as the visuospatial scratch pad. Next there is a short term storage buffer for verbal information known as the phonological loop. There is also a central executive component that guides the manipulation and transformation of information held within the storage buffers. Finally there is an episodic buffer. Parts of the brain considered important in working memory include the frontal cortex, parietal cortex, anterior cingulate, and parts of the basal ganglia. Deficits in working memory are assocaited with a variety of mental illnesses including Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder.

  • History

The term working memory was first introduced in the 1960s to draw a connection between the mind and the computer. Working memory was previously known as short-term memory, primary memory, immediate memory, operant memory, or provisional memory. The general distinction between what was known as short-term memory and what we now consider working memory is that working memory entails a component of manipulation of information while short-term memory involves only passive maintenance.

  • References

Cannon and Keller, 2006. Endophenotypes in the genetic analysis of mental disoders PMID 17716071

Barch and Smith, 2008. The cognitive neuroscience of working memory: Relevance to CNTRICS and Schizophrenia PMID 18400207

Silver et al, 2003. Working memory deficit as a core neuropsychological dysfunction in schizophrenia PMID 14514495

Richardson, 2007. Measures of short-term memory: a historical review PMID 17715798

Related Information

  • Indicators (dependent variables, conditions, or contrasts; measurement variables used for analysis) associated with this construct (vote or nominate by editing this page):
  • Closely related pages (vote or nominate related pages by editing this page):
  • CNP Level
    • cognitive concept

External Resources

Other Details