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An information-processing model of three cortical regions: evidence in episodic memory retrieval
ACT-R (Anderson, J.R., et al., 2003. An information-processing model of the BOLD response in symbol manipulation tasks. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 10, 241–261) relates the inferior dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex to a retrieval buffer that holds information retrieved from memory and the posterior parietal cortex to an imaginal buffer that holds problem representations. Because the number of changes in a problem representation is not necessarily correlated with retrieval difficulties, it is possible to dissociate prefrontal–parietal activations. In two fMRI experiments, we examined this dissociation using the fan effect paradigm. Experiment 1 compared a recognition task, in which representation requirement remains the same regardless of retrieval difficulty, with a recall task, in which both representation and retrieval loads increase with retrieval difficulty. In the recognition task, the prefrontal activation revealed a fan effect but not the parietal activation. In the recall task, both regions revealed fan effects. In Experiment 2, we compared visually presented stimuli and aurally presented stimuli using the recognition task. While only the prefrontal region revealed the fan effect, the activation patterns in the prefrontal and the parietal region did not differ by stimulus presentation modality. In general, these results provide support for the prefrontal–parietal dissociation in terms of retrieval and representation and the modality-independent nature of the information processed by these regions. Using ACT-R, we also provide computational models that explain patterns of fMRI responses in these two areas during recognition and recall.