Spatial and nonspatial auditory tasks preferentially recruit dorsal and ventral brain areas, respectively. However, the extent to which these auditory differences reflect specific aspects of mental processing has not been directly studied. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, participants encoded and maintained either the location or the identity of a sound for a delay period of several seconds and then subsequently compared that information with a second sound. Relative to sound localization, sound identification was associated with greater hemodynamic activity in the left rostral superior temporal gyrus. In contrast, localizing sounds recruited greater activity in the parietal cortex, posterior temporal lobe, and superior frontal sulcus. The identification differences were most prominent during the early stage of the trial, whereas the location differences were most evident during the late (i.e., comparison) stage. Accordingly, our results suggest that auditory spatial and identity dissociations as revealed by functional imaging may be dependent to some degree on the type of processing being carried out. In addition, dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral superior parietal areas showed greater activity during the comparison as opposed to the earlier stage of the trial, regardless of the type of auditory task, consistent with results from visual working memory studies.

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