The search for the phonological store: From loop to convolution


The phonological loop system of Baddeley and colleagues’ Working Memory model is a major accomplishment of the modern era of cognitive psychology. It was one of the first information processing models to make an explicit attempt to accommodate both traditional behavioral data and the results of neuropsychological case studies in an integrated theoretical framework. In the early and middle 1990s, the purview of the phonological loop was expanded to include the emerging field of functional brain imaging. The modular and componential structure of the phonological loop seemed to disclose a structure that might well be transcribed, intact, onto the convolutions of the brain. It was the phonological store component, however, with its simple and modular quality, that most appealed to the neuroimaging field as the psychological “box” that might most plausibly be located in the brain. Functional neuroimaging studies initially designated regions in the parietal cortex as constituting the “neural correlate” of the phonological store, whereas later studies pointed to regions in the posterior temporal cortex. In this review, however, we argue the phonological store as a theoretical construct does not precisely correspond to a single, functionally discrete, brain region. Rather, converging evidence from neurology, cognitive psychology, and functional neuroimaging argue for a reconceptualization of phonological short-term memory as emerging from the integrated action of the neural processes that underlie the perception and production of speech.

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience