Background: Lesion studies in human and non-human primates have linked several different regions of prefrontal cortex (PFC) with the ability to inhibit inappropriate motor responses. However, recent functional neuroimaging studies have specifically implicated right inferior PFC in response inhibition. Right frontal dominance for inhibitory motor control has become a commonly accepted view, although support for this position has not been consistent. Particularly conspicuous is the lack of data on the importance of the homologous region in the left hemisphere. To investigate whether the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) is critical for response inhibition, we used neuropsychological methodology with carefully characterized brain lesions in neurological patients.
Results: Twelve individuals with damage in the left IFG and the insula were tested in a Go/NoGo response inhibition task. In alternating blocks, the difficulty of response inhibition was easy (50% NoGo trials) or hard (10% NoGo trials). Controls showed the predicted pattern of faster reaction times and more false alarm errors in the hard condition. Left IFG patients had higher error rates than controls in both conditions, but were more impaired in the hard condition, when a greater degree of inhibitory control was required. In contrast, a patient control group with orbitofrontal cortex lesions showed intact performance.
Conclusion: Recent neuroimaging studies have focused on a highly specific association between right IFG and inhibitory control. The present results indicate that the integrity of left IFG is also critical for successful implementation of inhibitory control over motor responses. Our findings demonstrate the importance of obtaining converging evidence from multiple methodologies in cognitive neuroscience.