Developmental outcomes after early prefrontal cortex damage

Brain Cogn. 2004 Jun;55(1):84-103. doi: 10.1016/S0278-2626(03)00281-1.


The neuropsychological bases of cognitive, social, and moral development are minimally understood, with a seemingly wide chasm between developmental theories and brain maturation models. As one approach to bridging ideas in these areas, we review 10 cases of early prefrontal cortex damage from the clinical literature, highlighting overall clinical profiles and real life developmental outcomes. Based on these cases, there is preliminary evidence to support distinctive developmental differences after: (1) dorsolateral, (2) mesial, and (3) orbital-polar prefrontal lesions, for more profound impairments after bilateral damage, and possibly for recovery differences after very early vs. later childhood lesion onset. Further case and group studies are needed to confirm reliable effects of specific lesion locations, the influence of age of lesion onset, and related experiential and treatment variables in determining adult outcomes. Rather than a single underlying deficit associated with early prefrontal cortex damage, we interpret the findings to suggest that it is the altered integration and interplay of cognitive, emotional, self-regulatory, and executive/metacognitive deficits that contribute to diverse developmental frontal lobe syndromes. The findings support the fundamental importance of prefrontal cortex maturation in protracted cognitive, social-emotional, and moral development.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / complications*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / etiology
  • Learning Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / etiology*
  • Mood Disorders / physiopathology
  • Moral Development*
  • Social Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / physiopathology