In Baddeley's working memory model, verbalizable visual material such as pictures are recoded into a phonological form and then rehearsed, while auditory material is rehearsed directly. The recoding and rehearsal processes are mediated by articulatory control process in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC). Developmentally, the phonological strategy for serially-presented visual material emerges around 7. years of age, while that for auditory material is consistently present by 4. years of age. However, the strategy change may actually be correlated with memory ability as this usually increases with age. To investigate the relationship between the strategy for pictures and memory ability, we monitored the left VLPFC activation in 5 to 11. year-old children during free recall of visually- or auditorily-presented familiar objects using event-related near-infrared spectroscopy. We hypothesized that the phonological strategy of rehearsal and recoding for visual material would provoke greater activation than only rehearsal for auditory material in the left VLPFC. Therefore, we presumed that the activation difference for visual material compared with auditory material in the left VLPFC may represent the tendency to use a phonological strategy. We found that the activation difference in the left VLPFC showed a significant positive correlation with memory ability but not with age, suggesting that children with high memory ability make more use of phonological strategy for pictures. The present study provides functional evidence that the strategy in short-term memory for pictures shifts gradually from non-phonological to phonological as memory ability increases in childhood.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cognitive Neuroscience