Professional or amateur? The phonological output buffer as a working memory operator

Neta Haluts, Massimiliano Trippa, Naama Friedmann, Alessandro Treves*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Phonological Output Buffer (POB) is thought to be the stage in language production where phonemes are held in working memory and assembled into words. The neural implementation of the POB remains unclear despite a wealth of phenomenological data. Individuals with POB impairment make phonological errors when they produce words and non-words, including phoneme omissions, insertions, transpositions, substitutions and perseverations. Errors can apply to different kinds and sizes of units, such as phonemes, number words, morphological affixes, and function words, and evidence from POB impairments suggests that units tend to substituted with units of the same kind-e.g., numbers with numbers and whole morphological affixes with other affixes. This suggests that different units are processed and stored in the POB in the same stage, but perhaps separately in different mini-stores. Further, similar impairments can affect the buffer used to produce Sign Language, which raises the question of whether it is instantiated in a distinct device with the same design. However, what appear as separate buffers may be distinct regions in the activity space of a single extended POB network, connected with a lexicon network. The self-consistency of this idea can be assessed by studying an autoassociative Potts network, as a model of memory storage distributed over several cortical areas, and testing whether the network can represent both units of word and signs, reflecting the types and patterns of errors made by individuals with POB impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number662
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Cortex
  • Latching dynamics
  • Phonological output buffer
  • Potts network
  • Working memory


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