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Dissociative methods in the study of frontal lobe function.
In Attention and performance XVIII, 567-576. By S. Monsell and J. Driver, MIT Press.
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This commentary considers the question of specialization of function within prefrontal cortex. In principle, such specialization can be shown by double dissociation using any one of a variety of neuroscientific methods, including functional imaging, comparison of lesion groups, and single cell electrophysiology. In practice, full dissociation designs are rarely used and, when they are, clear dissociations are hard to obtain. Taking imaging, lesion and electrophysiological results together, it seems that well-defined regions of frontal cortex - mid-dorsolateral, mid-ventrolateral, and dorsal anterior cingulate - have somewhat dynamic functions, adapting themselves to solution of a broad range of cognitive problems. In neuroimaging, for example, these regions are activated by many different increases in cognitive demand, including response conflict, task novelty, working memory load and even perceptual difficulty. At the same time, these regions can be distinguished from much of medial and orbital frontal cortex, perhaps more concerned with affective and motivational processes. We suggest that further refinements on this rather coarse subdivision of frontal functions will require a substantial strengthening of commitment to full-scale double dissociation methodology.