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The frontal lobe, located at the front of the brain, is one of the four major lobes of

the cerebral cortex in the mammalian brain. The frontal lobe is located at the
front of each cerebral hemisphere and positioned in front of the parietal lobe and
above and in front of the temporal lobe. It is separated from the parietal lobe by
a space between tissues called the central sulcus, and from the temporal lobe by
a deep fold called the lateral sulcus also called the Sylvian fissure. The precentral
gyrus, forming the posterior border of the frontal lobe, contains the primary
motor cortex, which controls voluntary movements of specific body parts.

The frontal lobe contains most of the dopamine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral
cortex. The dopamine system is associated with reward, attention, short-term
memory tasks, planning, and motivation. Dopamine tends to limit and select
sensory information arriving from the thalamus to the forebrain. A report from the
National Institute of Mental Health says a gene variant that reduces dopamine
activity in the prefrontal cortex is related to poorer performance and inefficient
functioning of that brain region during working memory tasks, and to a slightly
increased risk for schizophrenia.[1]

Contents [hide]
1

Structure

Function

Clinical significance

3.1

Damage

3.1.1 Symptoms
4

Function

History

5.1

Psychosurgery

5.2

Theories of function

In other animals

Additional images

See also

References

10

External links

Structure[edit]

Animation. Frontal lobe (red) of left cerebral hemisphere.


On the lateral surface of the human brain, the central sulcus separates the frontal
lobe from the parietal lobe. The lateral sulcus separates the frontal lobe from the
temporal lobe.

The frontal lobe bottom can be divided into a lateral, polar, orbital (above the
orbit; also called basal or ventral), and medial part. Each of these parts consists
of particular gyri:

Lateral part: lateral part of the superior frontal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus,
inferior frontal gyrus.
Polar part: Transverse frontopolar gyri, frontomarginal gyrus.
Orbital part: Lateral orbital gyrus, anterior orbital gyrus, posterior orbital gyrus,
medial orbital gyrus, gyrus rectus.
Medial part: Medial part of the superior frontal gyrus, cingulate gyrus.
The gyri are separated by sulci. E.g., the precentral gyrus is in front of the central
sulcus, and behind the precentral sulcus. The superior and middle frontal gyri are
divided by the superior frontal sulcus. The middle and inferior frontal gyri are
divided by the inferior frontal sulcus.

In humans, the frontal lobe reaches full maturity around the late 20s,[2] marking
the cognitive maturity associated with adulthood. A small amount of atrophy,
however, is normal in the aging persons frontal lobe. Fjell, in 2009, studied
atrophy of the brain in people aged 6091 years. The 142 healthy participants
were scanned using MRI. Their results were compared to those of 122
participants with Alzheimer's disease. A follow-up one year later showed there to
have been a marked volumetric decline in those with Alzheimer's and a much
smaller decline (averaging 0.5%) in the healthy group.[3] These findings
corroborate those of Coffey, who in 1992 indicated that the frontal lobe decreases
in volume approximately 0.5%1% per year.[4]

Function[edit]
The frontal lobe plays a large role in voluntary movement. It houses the primary
motor cortex which regulates activities like walking.

The function of the frontal lobe involves the ability to project future
consequences resulting from current actions, the choice between good and bad
actions (or better and best) (also known as conscience), the override and
suppression of socially unacceptable responses, and the determination of
similarities and differences between things or events.

The frontal lobe also plays an important part in retaining longer term memories
which are not task-based. These are often memories associated with emotions
derived from input from the brain's limbic system. The frontal lobe modifies those
emotions to generally fit socially acceptable norms.

Psychological tests that measure frontal lobe function include finger tapping (as
the frontal lobe controls voluntary movement), the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test,
and measures of language and numeracy skills.[5]

Clinical significance[edit]
Damage[edit]
Stuss, et al. discuss in a review of many studies how damage to the frontal lobe
can occur in an assortment of ways and result in many different consequences.
Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) also known as mini-strokes, and strokes are
common causes of frontal lobe damage in older adults (65 and over). These
strokes and mini-strokes can occur due to the blockage of blood flow to the brain
or as a result of the rupturing of an aneurysm in a cerebral artery. Other ways in
which injury can occur include head injuries such as traumatic brain injuries
incurred following accidents, diagnoses such as Alzheimer's disease or
Parkinson's disease (which cause dementia symptoms), and frontal lobe epilepsy
(which can occur at any age).[6]

Symptoms[edit]
Function[edit]
The frontal lobe plays a large role in voluntary movement. It houses the primary
motor cortex which regulates activities like walking.

The function of the frontal lobe involves the ability to project future
consequences resulting from current actions, the choice between good and bad
actions (or better and best) (also known as conscience), the override and
suppression of socially unacceptable responses, and the determination of
similarities and differences between things or events.

The frontal lobe also plays an important part in retaining longer term memories
which are not task-based. These are often memories associated with emotions
derived from input from the brain's limbic system. The frontal lobe modifies those
emotions to generally fit socially acceptable norms.

Psychological tests that measure frontal lobe function include finger tapping (as
the frontal lobe controls voluntary movement), the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test,
and measures of language and numeracy skills.[7] [8] This personality change is
characteristic of damage to the frontal lobe and was exemplified in the case of
Phineas Gage. The frontal lobe is the same part of the brain that is responsible for
executive functions such as planning for the future, judgment, decision-making
skills, attention span, and inhibition. These functions can decrease drastically in
someone whose frontal lobe is damaged.[6]

Consequences that are seen less frequently are also varied. Confabulation may
be the most frequently indicated "less common" effect. In the case of
confabulation, someone gives false information while maintaining the belief that
it is the truth; he or she cannot remember the accurate information. In a small
number of patients, uncharacteristic cheerfulness can be noted. This effect is
seen mostly in patients with lesions to the right frontal portion of the brain.[6][9]

Another infrequent effect is that of reduplicative paramnesia, in which patients


believe that the location in which they currently reside is a replica of one located
somewhere else. Similarly, those who experience Capgras syndrome after frontal
lobe damage believe that an identical "replacement" has taken the identity of a
close friend, relative, or other person and is posing as that person. This last effect
is seen mostly in schizophrenic patients who also have a neurological disorder in
the frontal lobe.[6][10]

History[edit]
Psychosurgery[edit]
In the early 20th century, a medical treatment for mental illness, first developed
by Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz, involved damaging the pathways
connecting the frontal lobe to the limbic system. Frontal lobotomy (sometimes
called frontal leucotomy) successfully reduced distress but at the cost of often
blunting the subject's emotions, volition and personality. The indiscriminate use
of this psychosurgical procedure, combined with its severe side effects and a
mortality rate of 7.4 to 17 per cent,[11] gained it a bad reputation. The frontal
lobotomy has largely died out as a psychiatric treatment. More precise

psychosurgical procedures are still used, although rarely. They may include
anterior capsulotomy (bilateral thermal lesions of the anterior limbs of the
internal capsule) or the bilateral cingulotomy (involving lesions of the anterior
cingulate gyri) and might be used to treat otherwise untreatable obsessional
disorders or clinical depression.

Theories of function[edit]
Theories of frontal lobe function can be separated into four categories:

Single-process theories, which propose that "damage to a single process or


system is responsible for a number of different dysexecutive symptoms [12]
Multi-process theories, which propose "that the frontal lobe executive system
consists of a number of components that typically work together in everyday
actions (heterogeneity of function)" [13]
Construct-led theories, which propose that "most if not all frontal functions can
be explained by one construct (homogeneity of function) such as working
memory or inhibition" [14]
Single-symptom theories, which propose that a specific dysexecutive symptom
(e.g., confabulation) is related to the processes and construct of the underlying
structures.[15]
Other theories include:

Stuss (1999) suggests a differentiation into two categories according to


homogeneity and heterogeneity of function.
Grafman's managerial knowledge units (MKU) / structured event complex (SEC)
approach (cf. Wood & Grafman, 2003)
Miller & Cohen's integrative theory of prefrontal functioning (e.g. Miller & Cohen,
2001)
Rolls's stimulus-reward approach and Stuss's anterior attentional functions
(Burgess & Simons, 2005; Burgess, 2003; Burke, 2007).
It may be highlighted that the theories described above differ in their focus on
certain processes/systems or construct-lets. Stuss (1999) remarks that the
question of homogeneity (single construct) or heterogeneity (multiple
processes/systems) of function "may represent a problem of semantics and/or
incomplete functional analysis rather than an unresolvable dichotomy" (p. 348).
However, further research will show if a unified theory of frontal lobe function
that fully accounts for the diversity of functions will be available.

In other animals[edit]
For many years, many scientists thought that the frontal lobe was
disproportionately enlarged in humans compared to other primates. They thought
that this was an important feature of human evolution and was the primary
reason why human cognition differs from that of other primates. However, this
view has been challenged by newer research. Using magnetic resonance imaging
to determine the volume of the frontal cortex in humans, all extant ape species
and several monkey species, Semendeferi et al. found that the human frontal
cortex was not relatively larger than the cortex of other great apes but was
relatively larger than the frontal cortex of lesser apes and the monkeys.