Friday, April 10, 2009

Sites for abstract versus concrete actions in frontal lobes.

By observing behavioral deficits of lesion patients Badre et al. find that there is a hierarchical organization of cognitive control, with rostral (towards top of head) areas of the frontal lobes being required for decisions about more abstract actions and lower caudal areas (towards spinal column or tail) being required for decisions about more concrete actions.
Cognitive control permits us to make decisions about abstract actions, such as whether to e-mail versus call a friend, and to select the concrete motor programs required to produce those actions, based on our goals and knowledge. The frontal lobes are necessary for cognitive control at all levels of abstraction. Recent neuroimaging data have motivated the hypothesis that the frontal lobes are organized hierarchically, such that control is supported in progressively caudal regions as decisions are made at more concrete levels of action. We found that frontal damage impaired action decisions at a level of abstraction that was dependent on lesion location (rostral lesions affected more abstract tasks, whereas caudal lesions affected more concrete tasks), in addition to impairing tasks requiring more, but not less, abstract action control. Moreover, two adjacent regions were distinguished on the basis of the level of control, consistent with previous functional magnetic resonance imaging results. These results provide direct evidence for a rostro-caudal hierarchical organization of the frontal lobes.

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