Journal Article

Executive function and fluid intelligence after frontal lobe lesions

María Roca, Alice Parr, Russell Thompson, Alexandra Woolgar, Teresa Torralva, Nagui Antoun, Facundo Manes and John Duncan

in Brain

Published on behalf of The Guarantors of Brain

Volume 133, issue 1, pages 234-247
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0006-8950
Published online November 2009 | e-ISSN: 1460-2156 | DOI:

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Many tests of specific ‘executive functions’ show deficits after frontal lobe lesions. These deficits appear on a background of reduced fluid intelligence, best measured with tests of novel problem solving. For a range of specific executive tests, we ask how far frontal deficits can be explained by a general fluid intelligence loss. For some widely used tests, e.g. Wisconsin Card Sorting, we find that fluid intelligence entirely explains frontal deficits. When patients and controls are matched on fluid intelligence, no further frontal deficit remains. For these tasks too, deficits are unrelated to lesion location within the frontal lobe. A second group of tasks, including tests of both cognitive (e.g. Hotel, Proverbs) and social (Faux Pas) function, shows a different pattern. Deficits are not fully explained by fluid intelligence and the data suggest association with lesions in the right anterior frontal cortex. Understanding of frontal lobe deficits may be clarified by separating reduced fluid intelligence, important in most or all tasks, from other more specific impairments and their associated regions of damage.

Keywords: executive function; fluid intelligence; frontal lobe

Journal Article.  9581 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neurology ; Neuroscience

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