City Research Online

Decoding verbal working memory representations of Chinese characters from Broca's area

Yan, C., Christophel, T. B., Allefeld, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1037-2735 & Haynes, J-D. (2021). Decoding verbal working memory representations of Chinese characters from Broca's area. NeuroImage, 226, 117595. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117595


Representations of sensory working memory can be found across the entire neocortex. But how are verbal working memory (VWM) contents retained in the human brain? Here we used fMRI and multi-voxel pattern analyses to study Chinese native speakers (15 males, 13 females) memorizing Chinese characters. Chinese characters are uniquely suitable to study VWM because verbal encoding is encouraged by their complex visual appearance and monosyllabic pronunciation. We found that activity patterns in Broca's area and left premotor cortex carried information about the memorized characters. These language-related areas carried (1) significantly more information about cued characters than those not cued for memorization, (2) significantly more information on the left than the right hemisphere and (3) significantly more information about Chinese symbols than complex visual patterns which are hard to verbalize. In contrast, early visual cortex carries a comparable amount of information about cued and uncued stimuli and is thus unlikely to be involved in memory retention. This study provides evidence for verbal working memory maintenance in a distributed network of language-related brain regions, consistent with distributed accounts of WM. The results also suggest that Broca's area and left premotor cortex form the articulatory network which serves articulatory rehearsal in the retention of verbal working memory contents.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020 Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
Publisher Keywords: Verbal working memory, MVPA, Searchlight, Chinese characters, Broca's area, Premotor cortex, fMRI, Articulatory network, Distributed nature of WM
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (1MB) | Preview



Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login