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History of early working memory research

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The term working memory was first used in the 1960s in the context of theories that likened the mind to a computer. Before then, what we now call working memory was referred to as short-term memory, sometimes also as primary memory, immediate memory, operant memory, or provisional memory[1]. Short-term memory is the ability to remember information over a brief period of time (in the order of seconds). Most theorists today use the concept of working memory to replace or include the older concept of short-term memory, thereby marking a stronger emphasis on the notion of manipulation of information instead of passive maintenance.

The earliest mention of experiments on the neural basis of working memory can be traced back to over 100 years ago, when Hitzig[2]. and Ferrier[3] [4] described ablation experiments of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). They concluded that the frontal cortex was important for cognitive processes rather than sensory ones. In 1935 and 1936, Jacobsen and colleagues[citation needed] were the first to conclude that the cognitive processes in the PFC were notable in delay-dependent tasks; in other words, they suffered from short-term memory loss.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Fuster, J. M. (1997). The Prefrontal Cortex: Anatomy, physiology, and neuropsychology of the frontal lobe (2 ed.): Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
  2. Hitzig, E., (1870), On the Electrical Excitability of the Cerebrum
  3. [1] Wozniak, RH: David Ferrier. The Functions of the Brain 1876. In: Classics in Psychology. Thoemmes
  4. [2] Young, R.M.: David Ferrier: Localization of Sensory Motor Psychophysiology In: Mind, Brain and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century: Cerebral Localization and Its Biological Context from Gall to Ferrier
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