The role of the anterior prefrontal cortex in human cognition

Etienne Koechlin, Gianpaolo Basso, Pietro Pietrini, Seth Panzer, Jordan Grafman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Complex problem-solving and planning involve the most anterior part of the frontal lobes including the fronto-polar prefrontal cortex (FPPC), which is especially well developed in humans compared with other primates. The specific role of this region in human cognition, however, is poorly understood. Here we show, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, that bilateral regions in the FPPC alone are selectively activated when subjects have to keep in mind a main goal while performing concurrent (sub)goals. Neither keeping in mind a goal over time (working memory) nor successively allocating attentional resources between alternative goals (dual-task performance) could by themselves activate these regions. Our results indicate that the FPPC selectively mediates the human ability to hold in mind goals while exploring and processing secondary goals, a process generally required in planning and reasoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-151
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume399
Issue number6732
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 13 1999

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

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Cite this

Koechlin, E., Basso, G., Pietrini, P., Panzer, S., & Grafman, J. (1999). The role of the anterior prefrontal cortex in human cognition. Nature, 399(6732), 148-151. https://doi.org/10.1038/20178