Dissociable controlled retrieval and generalized selection mechanisms in ventrolateral prefrontal cortex

Neuron. 2005 Sep 15;47(6):907-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.07.023.


How does ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) control mnemonic processing? Alternative models propose that VLPFC guides top-down (controlled) retrieval of knowledge from long-term stores or selects goal-relevant products of retrieval from among competitors. A paucity of evidence supports a retrieval/selection distinction, raising the possibility that these models reduce to a common mechanism. Here, four manipulations varied semantic control demands during fMRI: judgment specificity, cue-target-associative strength, competitor dominance, and number of competitors. Factor analysis revealed evidence for a metafactor that accounted for common behavioral variance across manipulations and for functional variance in left mid-VLPFC. These data support a generalized control process that selects relevant knowledge from among competitors. By contrast, left anterior VLPFC and middle temporal cortex were sensitive to cue-target-associative strength, but not competition, consistent with a control process that retrieves knowledge stored in lateral temporal cortex. Distinct PFC mechanisms mediate top-down retrieval and postretrieval selection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cues
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Generalization, Psychological / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Semantics


  • Oxygen