The dependence of span and delayed-response performance on prefrontal cortex.

D’Esposito, Postle BR.  1999.  The dependence of span and delayed-response performance on prefrontal cortex., 1999 Oct. Neuropsychologia. 37(11):1303-1315.


Theoretical and empirical research on the cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex have established that this region mediates what have been called ’executive’ processes that can influence working and long-term memory. Despite the accumulation of such empirical evidence, the dependence of purely mnemonic portions of memory tasks on PFC remains unresolved. To address this issue, we performed an analysis of reports of performance on tests of working memory of patients with lesions of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, focusing on published reports in the literature of simple span and delayed-response tasks. We found that none of the eleven studies of forward verbal and spatial span in patients with prefrontal cortical lesions that we reviewed (reflecting the performance of 166 individual patients) demonstrated a statistically significant deficit relative to normal controls. In contrast, our review of the delayed-response literature indicated that there are conditions under which PFC lesions disrupt delayed-response performance. Based on the results of our review of the literature, we present testable hypotheses about the working memory functions of the PFC.



1999_desposito_np.pdf219.64 KB