Abstract

Accumulating evidence suggests a role for the medial temporal lobe (MTL) in working memory (WM). However, little is known concerning its functional interactions with other cortical regions in the distributed neural network subserving WM. To reveal these, we availed of subjects with MTL damage and characterized changes in effective connectivity while subjects engaged in WM task. Specifically, we compared dynamic causal models, extracted from magnetoencephalographic recordings during verbal WM encoding, in temporal lobe epilepsy patients (with left hippocampal sclerosis) and controls. Bayesian model comparison indicated that the best model (across subjects) evidenced bilateral, forward, and backward connections, coupling inferior temporal cortex (ITC), inferior frontal cortex (IFC), and MTL. MTL damage weakened backward connections from left MTL to left ITC, a decrease accompanied by strengthening of (bidirectional) connections between IFC and MTL in the contralesional hemisphere. These findings provide novel evidence concerning functional interactions between nodes of this fundamental cognitive network and sheds light on how these interactions are modified as a result of focal damage to MTL. The findings highlight that a reduced (top-down) influence of the MTL on ipsilateral language regions is accompanied by enhanced reciprocal coupling in the undamaged hemisphere providing a first demonstration of “connectional diaschisis.”

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