The most influential model of working memory (WM) defines four of its components: the central executive, visuospatial sketchpad, phonological loop and episodic buffer. WM has been shown to be notably involved in linguistic processing. Nevertheless, the nature of the interaction of lexical-semantic retrieval with WM components is still obscure. We conducted a study in which subjects completed verbal fluency tasks (VF) and were subjected to a neuropsychological assessment where three WM components were tested: the central executive, visuospatial sketchpad and episodic buffer. We chose verbal fluency because it excludes noise from linguistic context. Firstly, we differentiated between lexical-semantic categories with more and less automatic semantic links and thus more or less automatic retrieval processes. Secondly, we relied on models of embodied semantics which predict considerable involvement of visual and spatial information in lexical-semantic processing. The study recruited 20 healthy subjects, ages 20–31 (M=9, F=11). In the verbal fluency (VF) tasks subjects were to name as many words in 60 s in the categories: animals and trees (category VF), things one can do in the house (action VF), K, M and P (phonemic VF). We calculated clustering and switching. The CANTAB battery was administered for the neuropsychological assessment. Tests included the Spatial Working Memory (visuospatial processing and strategy), the Stockings of Cambridge (spatial planning), the Attention Switching Task, the Paired Associates Learning (visual episodic memory), and Delayed Matching to Sample (visual recognition memory). Our results suggest that visual information recall is an essential component in all verbal fluency tasks and that it is more linked to clustering than switching. Furthermore, our results confirm the hypotheses that different categories have different amounts of automatised links between concepts. Tree fluency was positively correlated with Attention Switching Task and Paired Associates Learning. Animal fluency was not. Action fluency was further positively correlated with Spatial Working Memory and Attention Switching Task. Thus, different WM components are involved in different verbal fluency tasks.
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