Browsing by Organization "University Central Hospital, University of Helsinki"

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  • Vuontela, Virve (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Intact function of working memory (WM) is essential for children and adults to cope with every day life. Children with deficits in WM mechanisms have learning difficulties that are often accompanied by behavioral problems. The neural processes subserving WM, and brain structures underlying this system, continue to develop during childhood till adolescence and young adulthood. With functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) it is possible to investigate the organization and development of WM. The present thesis aimed to investigate, using behavioral and neuroimaging methods, whether mnemonic processing of spatial and nonspatial visual information is segregated in the developing and mature human brain. A further aim in this research was to investigate the organization and development of audiospatial and visuospatial information processing in WM. The behavioral results showed that spatial and nonspatial visual WM processing is segregated in the adult brain. The fMRI result in children suggested that memory load related processing of spatial and nonspatial visual information engages common cortical networks, whereas selective attention to either type of stimuli recruits partially segregated areas in the frontal, parietal and occipital cortices. Deactivation mechanisms that are important in the performance of WM tasks in adults are already operational in healthy school-aged children. Electrophysiological evidence suggested segregated mnemonic processing of visual and auditory location information. The results of the development of audiospatial and visuospatial WM demonstrate that WM performance improves with age, suggesting functional maturation of underlying cognitive processes and brain areas. The development of the performance of spatial WM tasks follows a different time course in boys and girls indicating a larger degree of immaturity in the male than female WM systems. Furthermore, the differences in mastering auditory and visual WM tasks may indicate that visual WM reaches functional maturity earlier than the corresponding auditory system. Spatial WM deficits may underlie some learning difficulties and behavioral problems related to impulsivity, difficulties in concentration, and hyperactivity. Alternatively, anxiety or depressive symptoms may affect WM function and the ability to concentrate, being thus the primary cause of poor academic achievement in children.