Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to identify regions involved in working memory (WM) retrieval. Neural activation was examined in two WM tasks: an item recognition task, which can be mediated by a direct-access retrieval process, and a judgment of recency task that requires a serial search. Dissociations were found in the activation patterns in the hippocampus and in the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) when the probe contained the most recently studied serial position (where a test probe can be matched to the contents of focal attention) compared to when it contained all other positions (where retrieval is required). The data implicate the hippocampus and the LIFG in retrieval from WM, complementing their established role in long-term memory. Results further suggest that the left posterior parietal cortex (LPPC) supports serial retrieval processes that are often required to recover temporal order information. Together, these data suggest that the LPPC, the LIFG, and the hippocampus collectively support WM retrieval. Critically, the reported findings support accounts that posit a distinction between representations maintained in and outside of focal attention, but are at odds with traditional dual-store models that assume distinct mechanisms for short- and long-term memory representations.

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