The Neural Correlates of Updating and Gating in Procedural Working Memory

Gal Nir-Cohen, Tobias Egner, Yoav Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Goal-directed behavior relies on maintaining relevant goals in working memory (WM) and updating them when required. Computational modeling, behavioral, and neuroimaging work has previously identified the processes and brain regions involved in selecting, updating, and maintaining declarative information, such as letters and pictures. However, the neural substrates that underlie the analogous processes that operate on procedural information, namely, task goals, are currently unknown. Forty-three participants were therefore scanned with fMRI while performing a procedural version of the reference-back paradigm that allowed for the decomposition of WM updating processes into gate-opening, gate-closing, task switch-ing, and task cue conflict components. Significant behavioral costs were observed for each of these components, with interactions indicating facilitation between gate-opening and task switching, and a modulation of cue conflict by gate state. In neural terms, opening the gate to procedural WM was associated with activity in medial pFC, posterior parietal cortex (PPC), the basal ganglia (BG), thalamus, and midbrain, but only when the task set needed to be updated. Closing the gate to procedural WM was associated with frontoparietal and BG activity specifically in conditions where conflicting task cues had to be ignored. Task switching was associated with activity in the medial pFC/ACC, PPC, and BG, whereas cue conflict was associated with PPC and BG activity during gate closing but was abolished when the gate was already closed. These results are discussed in relation to declarative WM and to gating models of WM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-940
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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