Although the human brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC) has been studied for decades, theories about a valuation network and a cognitive control network—both hypothesized to reside in the PFC—have only recently emerged, and their precise distinction is still unclear.
Furthermore, cognitive control, once considered a unitary construct, is now thought to fractionate into distinct executive functions whose neural correlates remain elusive.
It is thus still an unanswered question how these processes map onto distinct or possibly overlapping sectors of the PFC. Glaescher et al. applied several new statistical mapping approaches to a sample of 344 lesion patients that had received an array of neuropsychological tests of executive functions and value-based decision-making.
Background data regarding IQ, memory, and other cognitive functions within individual subjects were also analyzed. The authors described detailed maps of PFC regions that are essential for different executive functions.
- One set involving the dorsolateral PFC and the anterior cingulate cortex is associated with a common performance factor related to flexibly switching between task and response sets, a hallmark of cognitive control.
- Another set involving the orbitofrontal cortex, ventromedial PFC, and frontopolar cortexis involved in value-based decision-making.This study details the essential neuroanatomical substrates of some of the highest brain functions and provides insights about the extent to which they are distinct or overlap.