No other modality is more frequently represented in the prefrontal cortex than the auditory, but the role of auditory information in prefrontal functions is not well understood. Pathways from auditory association cortices reach distinct sites in the lateral, orbital, and medial surfaces of the prefrontal cortex in rhesus monkeys. Among prefrontal areas, frontopolar area 10 has the densest interconnections with auditory association areas, spanning a large antero-posterior extent of the superior temporal gyrus from the temporal pole to auditory parabelt and belt regions. Moreover, auditory pathways make up the largest component of the extrinsic connections of area 10, suggesting a special relationship with the auditory modality. Here we review anatomic evidence showing that frontopolar area 10 is indeed the main frontal "auditory field" as the major recipient of auditory input in the frontal lobe and chief source of output to auditory cortices. Area 10 is thought to be the functional node for the most complex cognitive tasks of multitasking and keeping track of information for future decisions. These patterns suggest that the auditory association links of area 10 are critical for complex cognition. The first part of this review focuses on the organization of prefrontal-auditory pathways at the level of the system and the synapse, with a particular emphasis on area 10. Then we explore ideas on how the elusive role of area 10 in complex cognition may be related to the specialized relationship with auditory association cortices.
Keywords: anterior cingulate cortex; area 10; frontal pole; frontopolar cortex; inhibitory neurons; laminar connections; synaptic pathways.