Long-term sequelae of prefrontal cortex damage acquired in early childhood

Dev Neuropsychol. 2000;18(3):281-96. doi: 10.1207/S1532694202Anderson.


Frontal lobe dysfunction is often invoked as a contributing factor in developmental disorders characterized by chronic maladaptive behavior, but interpretation of relevant neuropsychological findings has been hampered by the limited information available regarding the consequences of focal prefrontal damage early in life. We describe here the long-term behavioral and cognitive sequelae of damage to prefrontal cortex in two young adult patients who had sustained their brain damage prior to 16 months of age. In the context of normal neurological examinations, both cases had remarkable histories of impaired decision making, behavioral dyscontrol, social defects, and abnormal emotion. Performances were primarily normal on a broad range of neuropsychological measures (intellect, memory, language, academic achievement, visual perception, and visuoconstruction), but selective impairments of executive function were evident. Early dysfunction in the prefrontal region may result in severe and chronic social maladjustment despite largely normal cognitive abilities. These findings can help inform neuropsychological evaluation of patients with possible prefrontal dysfunction in the setting of developmental disabilities or early brain trauma.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition
  • Conduct Disorder / etiology
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Disorders / etiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Time Factors