• Differently attached individuals displayed similar
working memory (WM) performance.
• Attachment style may affect the cognitive mechanisms
used in the WM task.
• Attachment may be associated with WM representations
in terms of cortical activity.
• Attachment style may impact cognitive neural circuits
beyond socio-emotional domain.
Introduction: Attachment style has been associated with socio-emotional
outcomes, however little evidence suggests a possible association with
executive functioning. Few studies have demonstrated that attachment
style mediates working memory and learning relationships. We
hypothesized that attachment style affects performance and cortical
activity patterns of working memory.
Methods: We compared working memory performance and cortical
activity in securely and insecurely attached first-year college students
(N=49) using three n-back task conditions. Cortical activity was recorded
by functional near-infrared spectroscopy during these three conditions
of the n-back task. Attachment style was assessed using the Relationship
Scale Questionnaire, categorized into four groups.
Results: Both study groups showed similar working memory performance.
The cortical representation of working memory was different between
the two groups. The securely attached group demonstrated higher
activity in the right superior frontal and superior-medial frontal areas
across all n-back conditions as well as in the right superior frontal cortex
during the two-back and three-back conditions. The insecurely attached
group displayed higher activity in the bilateral supplementary motor
area and the left premotor area only during the three-back condition.
Conclusion: These findings emphasize the potential influence of
attachment style on the cortical representation of working memory.
Different activity maps between the two groups may reflect varying
cognitive strategies employed to achieve a comparable working memory
performance. Moreover, these results suggest that each style may
have a distinct strategy to achieve attachment-relevant and irrelevant
Keywords: Attachment style, cognition, executive function, functional
near-infrared spectroscopy, motor cortex, working memory