Role of human prefrontal cortex in attention control.

R. T. Knight*, M. F. Grabowecky, D. Scabini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Without a functioning dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, humans are stimulus bound and have little confidence in their ability to interact with the environment. Deficits in inhibitory control of external and internal processes coupled with impaired temporal coding of stimuli and detection capacity for novel events leave the patient functioning in a noisy internal environment without critical spatiotemporal cues. Some of these proposals are similar to those of Nauta (104). Based on connectivity of the prefrontal cortex, Nauta suggested that this region was ideally suited to generate and evaluate internal models of action. It is proposed that, in addition to this generation function, the prefrontal cortex is crucial for detecting changes in the external environment and for discriminating internally and externally derived models of the world. This chapter has described a cascade of deficits that result from damage to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Awareness of the sensory world, and of the apparent stream of internal and external events, is impaired by deficits in novelty detection. Changes in the world, internal or external, may not be noticed in a noisy internal milieu. These deficits contribute to impaired reality monitoring and to a subsequent lack of confidence in behavior. An inability to bridge temporal gaps and temporally sequence internal events, together with deficits in inhibitory control systems, contribute to an impairment in the ability to generate coherent representations of alternate or counterfactual realities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-34; discussion 34-36
JournalAdvances in neurology
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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