A role for rostral prefrontal cortex (BA10) has been proposed in multitasking, in particular, the selection and maintenance of higher order internal goals while other sub-goals are being performed. BA10 has also been implicated in the ability to infer someone else's feelings and thoughts, often referred to as theory of mind. While most of the data to support these views come from functional neuroimaging studies, lesion studies are scant. In the present study, we compared the performance of a group of frontal patients whose lesions involved BA10, a group of frontal patients whose lesions did not affect this area (nonBA10), and a group of healthy controls on tests requiring multitasking and complex theory of mind judgments. Only the group with lesions involving BA10 showed deficits on multitasking and theory of mind tasks when compared with control subjects. NonBA10 patients performed more poorly than controls on an executive function screening tool, particularly on measures of response inhibition and abstract reasoning, suggesting that theory of mind and multitasking deficits following lesions to BA10 cannot be explained by a general worsening of executive function. In addition, we searched for correlations between performance and volume of damage within different subregions of BA10. Significant correlations were found between multitasking performance and volume of damage in right lateral BA10, and between theory of mind and total BA10 lesion volume. These findings stress the potential pivotal role of BA10 in higher order cognitive functions.
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