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An information-processing model of the BOLD response in symbol manipulation tasks
Two imaging experiments were performed—one involving an algebraic transformation task studied by Anderson, Reder, and Lebiere (1996) and the other an abstraction symbol manipulation task studied by Blessing and Anderson (1996). ACT-R models exist that predict the latency patterns in these tasks. These models require activity in an imaginal buffer to represent changes to the problem representation, in a retrieval buffer to hold information from declarative memory, and in a manual buffer to hold information about motor behavior. A general theory is described about how to map activity in these buffers onto the fMRI blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response. This theory claims that the BOLD response is integrated over the duration that a buffer is active and can be used to predict the observed BOLD function. Activity in the imaginal buffer is shown to predict the BOLD response in a left posterior parietal region; activity in the retrieval buffer is shown to predict the BOLD response in a left prefrontal region; and activity in the manual buffer is shown to predict activity in a motor region. More generally, this article shows how to map a large class of information-processing theories (not just ACT-R) onto the BOLD response and provides a precise interpretation of the cognitive significance of the BOLD response.