The cognitive and behavioral effects of meningioma lesions involving the ventromedial prefrontal cortex

J Neurosurg. 2016 Jun;124(6):1568-77. doi: 10.3171/2015.5.JNS142788. Epub 2015 Nov 27.


OBJECT Anterior skull base meningiomas are frequently associated with changes in personality and behavior. Although such meningiomas often damage the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), which is important for higher cognition, the cognitive and behavioral effects of these meningiomas remain poorly understood. Using detailed neuropsychological assessments in a large series of patients, this study examined the cognitive and behavioral effects of meningioma lesions involving the vmPFC. METHODS The authors reviewed neuropsychology and lesion mapping records of 70 patients who underwent resection of meningiomas. The patients were drawn from the Neurological Patient Registry at the University of Iowa. Patients were sorted into 2 groups: those with lesions involving the vmPFC and those with lesions that did not involve the vmPFC. Neuropsychological data pertaining to a comprehensive array of cognitive and behavioral domains were available preoperatively in 20 patients and postoperatively in all 70 patients. RESULTS No change occurred in basic cognitive functions (e.g., attention, perception, memory, construction and motor performance, language, or executive functions) from the preoperative to postoperative epochs for the vmPFC and non-vmPFC groups. There was a significant decline in the behavioral domain, specifically adaptive function, for both the vmPFC and non-vmPFC groups, and this decline was more pronounced for the vmPFC group. Additionally, postoperative data indicated that the vmPFC group had a specific deficit in value-based decision making, as evidenced by poor performance on the Iowa Gambling Task, compared with the non-vmPFC group. The vmPFC and non-vmPFC groups did not differ postoperatively on other cognitive measures, including intellect, memory, language, and perception. CONCLUSIONS Lesions of the vmPFC resulting from meningiomas are associated with specific deficits in adaptive function and value-based decision making. Meningioma patients showed a decline in adaptive function postoperatively, and this decline was especially notable in patients with vmPFC region meningiomas. Early detection and resection of meningiomas of the anterior skull base (involving the gyrus rectus) may prevent these deficits.

Keywords: IGT = Iowa Gambling Task; Iowa Gambling Task; adaptive function; brain tumor; decision making; neuropsychology; oncology; personality change; vmPFC = ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Meningioma / diagnostic imaging
  • Meningioma / psychology*
  • Meningioma / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Perioperative Period
  • Postoperative Period
  • Prefrontal Cortex* / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex* / surgery
  • Skull Base