Psychology: K.F and Working Memory

K.F was an individual who suffered a motorcycle accident, which caused damage to his left parietal occipital region of the brain. Patient KF was studied by Shallice and Warrington in the 1970’s to further our understanding of short-term memory and long-term memory, and how they interact.

 

K.F. showed very poor digit span in tasks designed to test his short-term memory (S.T.M), but had a good performance on tasks that seemed to indicate and intact long-term store. He was still able to store new information in the LTM, and he could actually learn a 10-word sequence and still was able to retain 7 of the 10 items some months later. This tells us he was able to trasnfer information from the S.T.M to the L.T.M, but he had problems within the STM (digit span). This study seems to go against the model of memory proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin the multi store model, as it says it should not be possible for interaction between the STM and the LTM, since an intact STM is required for information transfer. How can we explain this?

Working memory is able to explain this. A new model of memory proposed by Baddely and Hitch in 1968 tells us that there is more to the short term memory store than one simple unitary store, but is made up of different components, with different roles and interactions, which function at different parts of the brain. This model says, instead of all information going into one single short term store, there are different systems for different types of information, and that each component is relatively independent of each other. This model tells us there are three main parts;

  1. The Centeral Executvie
  2. The Visuo Spatial Sketchpad
  3. Phonological Loop
  4. Episodic Buffer

K.F.’s ability for his LTM to function after doing STM tasks prove that there is a different component related to the interaction of the LTM and the STM stores. KF shows that components of his STM were functional, but one was impaired (the digit span, immediate recallation). The fact that he was able to store new information in the LTM tells us that his Centeral Excutive was still fairly functional in shifting and transferring information. If we examine the tasks given to him more closely, results showed that he faired better when information was given to him visually compared to auditory, and we know he had a poor digit span recallation. This points to the direction that his Phonoligcal Loop system within his working memory (which is STM) was damaged, but all the other components were functional, as we know he was still able to recall information from the Long term store, where the Centeral Excecutive and the Episodic Buffer is required to function properly.

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