The Role of Prefrontal Cortex in Working-Memory Capacity, Executive Attention, and General Fluid Intelligence: An Individual-Differences Perspective

Psychon Bull Rev. 2002 Dec;9(4):637-71. doi: 10.3758/bf03196323.

Abstract

We provide an "executive-attention" framework for organizing the cognitive neuroscience research on the constructs of working-memory capacity (WMC), general fluid intelligence, and prefrontal cortex (PFC) function. Rather than provide a novel theory of PFC function, we synthesize a wealth of single-cell, brain-imaging, and neuropsychological research through the lens of our theory of normal individual differences in WMC and attention control (Engle, Kane, & Tuholski, 1999; Engle, Tuholski, Laughlin, & Conway, 1999). Our critical review confirms the prevalent view that dorsolateral PFC circuitry is critical to executive-attention functions. Moreover, although the dorsolateral PFC is but one critical structure in a network of anterior and posterior "attention control" areas, it does have a unique executive-attention role in actively maintaining access to stimulus representations and goals in interference-rich contexts. Our review suggests the utility of an executive-attention framework for guiding future research on both PFC function and cognitive control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Intelligence / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*