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Is the Prefrontal Cortex Necessary for Delay Task Performance? Evidence from Lesion and fMRI Data


Although the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is consistently found to be associated with various working memory processes, the necessity of the PFC for such processes remains unclear. To elucidate PFC contributions to storage and rehearsal/maintenance processes engaged during verbal working memory function, we assessed behavior of patients with lesions to the left or right lateral PFC, and neural activity of healthy young subjects during fMRI scanning, during performance of working memory tasks. We found that PFC lesions did not affect storage processes—which is consistent with the notion that posterior cortical networks can support simple retention of information. We also found that PFC lesions did not affect rehearsal/maintenance processes, which was in contrast to our finding that healthy subjects performing a verbal delayed recognition task showed bilateral PFC activation. These combined imaging and behavioral data suggest that working memory rehearsal/maintenance processes may depend on both hemispheres, which may have implications for recovery of function and development of rehabilitation therapies after frontal injury. (JINS, 2006, 12, 248–260.)

Corresponding author
Reprint request to: Mark D'Esposito, MD, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, 132 Barker Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3190. E-mail:
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Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
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