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Executive Control and the Frontal Lobe: Current Issues
Schneider, W.X., OWEN, A.M. & DUNCAN, J.
Experimental Brain Research, 133(1), 1-2
Year of publication:
While the importance of the prefrontal cortex for Å’higher-order’ cognitive functions is largely undisputed, no consensus has been reached regarding precise specification of these functions. For example, although some degree of regional specialization within the frontal lobe seems inevitable, by and large, most attempts to map specific cognitive functions onto neuroanatomical and/or cytoarchitectonic sub-divisions have been disappointing. This is true, not only for data derived from human neuropsychological studies, but also from lesion and electrophysiological studies in the monkey and, more recently, from functional neuroimaging experiments in man. That is not to say, of course, that associations have never been drawn between specific cognitive functions and particular regions of the prefrontal cortex, but only that the level of consistency across different studies is often rather lower than for investigations focussing on more posterior cortical areas. This lack of consensus about functional segregation is compounded further by terminology; many of the concepts currently used to describe aspects of normal frontal-lobe functioning, such as Å’executive control’, Å’monitoring and manipulation within working memory’, Å’temporal structuring of behaviour’ and Å’control of behaviour by context’, remain rather non-specific and require more precise definition. In short, although a high degree of functional specialization probably exists within the frontal cortex, it seems increasingly likely that the structural organization of this system does not relate, in any straightforward way, to contemporary models of cognition.