Specialized systems for the processing of mnemonic information within the primate frontal cortex

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1996 Oct 29;351(1346):1455-61; discussion 1461-2. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1996.0130.


The lateral frontal cortex is involved in various aspects of executive processing within short- and long-term memory. It is argued that the different parts of the lateral frontal cortex make distinct contributions to memory that differ in terms of the level of executive processing that is carried out in interaction with posterior cortical systems. According to this hypothesis, the mid-dorsolateral frontal cortex (areas 46 and 9) is a specialized system for the monitoring and manipulation of information within working memory, whereas the mid-ventrolateral frontal cortex (areas 47/12 and 45) is involved in the active retrieval of information from the posterior cortical association areas. Data are presented which support this two-level hypothesis that posits two distinct levels of interaction of the lateral frontal cortex with posterior cortical association areas. Functional activation studies with normal human subjects have demonstrated specific activity within the mid-dorsolateral region of the frontal cortex during the performance of tasks requiring monitoring of self-generated and externally generated sequences of responses. In the monkey, lesions restricted to this region of the frontal cortex yield a severe impairment in performance of the above tasks, this impairment appearing against a background of normal performance on several basic mnemonic tasks. By contrast, a more severe impairment follows damage to the mid-ventrolateral frontal region and functional activation studies have demonstrated specific changes in activity in this region in relation to the active retrieval of information from memory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed