Dorsolateral prefrontal contributions to human intelligence

Aron K. Barbey*, Roberto Colom, Jordan Grafman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Although cognitive neuroscience has made remarkable progress in understanding the involvement of the prefrontal cortex in executive control functions for human intelligence, the necessity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) for key competencies of general intelligence and executive function remains to be well established. Here we studied human brain lesion patients with dlPFC lesions to investigate whether this region is computationally necessary for performance on neuropsychological tests of general intelligence and executive function, administering the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and subtests of the Delis Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) to three groups: dlPFC lesions (n=19), non-dlPFC lesions (n=152), and no brain lesions (n=55). The results indicate that: (1) patients with focal dlPFC damage exhibit lower scores, at the latent variable level, than controls in general intelligence (g) and executive function; (2) dlPFC patients demonstrate lower scores than controls in several executive measures; and (3) these latter differences are no longer significant when the pervasive influence of the general factor of intelligence (g) is statistically removed. The observed findings support a central role for the dlPFC in global aspects of general intelligence and make specific recommendations for the interpretation and application of the WAIS and D-KEFS to the study of high-level cognition in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1361-1369
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Executive function
  • General intelligence
  • Lesion evidence
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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