The effects of prefrontal lesions on working memory performance and theory

Clayton E. Curtis, Mark D'Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

The effects of experimental lesions of the monkey prefrontal cortex have played a predominant role in current conceptualizations of the functional organization of the lateral prefrontal cortex, especially with regard to working memory. The loss or sparing of certain performance abilities has been shown to be attributable to differences in the specific requirements of behavioral testing (e.g., spatial vs. non-spatial memoranda) along with differences in the specific locations of applied ablations (e.g., dorsal vs. ventral prefrontal cortex). Such findings, which have accumulated now for over a century, have led to widespread acceptance that the dorsolateral and ventrolateral aspects of the prefrontal cortex may perform different, specialized roles in higher order cognition. Nonetheless, it remains unclear and controversial how the lateral prefrontal cortex is functionally organized. Two main views propose different types of functional specialization of the dorsal and ventral prefrontal cortex. The first contends that the lateral prefrontal cortex is segregated according to the processing of spatial and nonspatial domains of information. The second contends that domain specialization is not the key to the organization of the prefrontal cortex, but that instead, the dorsal and ventral prefrontal cortices perform qualitatively different operations. This report critically reviews all relevant monkey lesion studies that have served as the foundation for current theories regarding the functional organization of the prefrontal cortex. Our goals are to evaluate how well the existing lesion data support each theory and to enumerate caveats that must be considered when interpreting the relevant literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-539
Number of pages12
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Volume4
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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