Moral judgments, whether delivered in ordinary experience or in the courtroom, depend on our ability to infer intentions. We forgive unintentional or accidental harms and condemn failed attempts to harm. Prior work demonstrates that patients with damage to the ventromedial prefrontalcortex deliver abnormal judgments in response to moral dilemmas and that these patients are especially impaired in triggering emotional responses to inferred or abstract events, as opposed to real or actual outcomes. We therefore predicted that VMPC patients (...) would deliver abnormal moral judgments of harmful intentions in the absence of harmful outcomes, as in failed attempts to harm. This prediction was confirmed in the current study: VMPC patients judged attempted harms, including attempted murder, as more morally permissible relative to controls. These results highlight the critical role of the VMPC in processing harmful intent for moral judgment. (shrink)
The prefrontalcortex has long been suspected to play an important role in cognitive control, in the ability to orchestrate thought and action in accordance with internal goals. Its neural basis, however, has remained a mystery. Here, we propose that cognitive control stems from the active maintenance of patterns of activity in the prefrontalcortex that represent goals and the means to achieve them. They provide bias signals to other brain structures whose net effect is to (...) guide the flow of activity along neural pathways that establish the proper mappings between inputs, internal states, and outputs needed to perform a given task. We review neurophysiological, neurobiological, neuroimaging, and computational studies that support this theory and discuss its implications as well as further issues to be addressed. (shrink)
Although patient data have traditionally implicated the left prefrontalcortex in hypothesis generation, recent lesion data implicate right PFC in hypothesis generation tasks that involve set shifts. To test the involvement of the right prefrontalcortex in a hypothesis generation task involving set shifts, we scanned 13 normal subjects with fMRI as they completed Match Problems and a baseline task. In Match Problems subjects determined the number of possible solutions for each trial. Successful solutions are indicative (...) of set shifts. In the baseline condition subjects evaluated the accuracy of hypothetical solutions to match problems. A comparison of Match Problems versus baseline trials revealed activation in right ventral lateral PFC and left dorsal lateral PFC. A further comparison of successfully versus unsuccessfully completed Match Problems revealed activation in right ventral lateral PFC, left middle frontal gyrus and left frontal pole, thus identifying the former as a critical component of the neural mechanisms of set-shift transformation. By contrast, activation in right dorsal lateral PFC covaried as a function of the number of solutions generated in Match Problems, possibly due to increased working memory demands to maintain multiple solutions ‘on-line’, conflict resolution, or progress monitoring. These results go beyond the patient data by identifying the ventral lateral aspect of right PFC as being a critical component of the neural systems underlying lateral transformations, and demonstrate a dissociation between right VLPFC and DLPFC in hypotheses generation and maintenance. (shrink)
Rapid advances have recently been made in understanding how value-based decision-making processes are implemented in the brain. We integrate neuroeconomic and computational approaches with evidence on the neural correlates of value and experienced pleasure to describe how systems for valuation and decision-making are organized in the prefrontalcortex of humans and other primates. We show that the orbitofrontal and ventromedial prefrontal (VMPFC) cortices compute expected value, reward outcome and experienced pleasure for different stimuli on a common value (...) scale. Attractor networks in VMPFC area 10 then implement categorical decision processes that transform value signals into a choice between the values, thereby guiding action. This synthesis of findings across fields provides a unifying perspective for the study of decision-making processes in the brain. (shrink)
The human self model comprises essential features such as the experiences of ownership, of body-centered spatial perspectivity, and of a long-term unity of beliefs and attitudes. In the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, it is suggested that clinical subsyndromes like cognitive disorganization and derealization syndromes reflect disorders of this self model. These features are neurobiologically instantiated as an episodically active complex neural activation pattern and can be mapped to the brain, given adequate operationalizations of self model features. In its unique capability of (...) integrating external and internal data, the prefrontalcortex (PFC) appears to be an essential component of the neuronal implementation of the self model. With close connections to other unimodal association cortices and to the limbic system, the PFC provides an internally represented world model and internal milieu data of the organism, both serving world orientation. In the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, it is the dysfunction of the PFC that is suggested to be the neural correlate for the different clinical schizophrenic subsyndromes. The pathophysiological study of psychiatric disorders may contribute to the theoretical debate on the neuronal basis of the self model. (shrink)
Logic is widely considered the basis of rationality. Logical choices, however, are often influenced by emotional responses, sometimes to our detriment, sometimes to our advantage. To understand the neural basis of emotionally neutral and emotionally salient reasoning we studied 19 volunteers using event-related fMRI, as they made logical judgments about arguments that varied in emotional saliency. Despite identical logical form and content categories across “hot” and “cold” reasoning conditions, lateral and ventral medial prefrontalcortex showed reciprocal response patterns (...) as a function of emotional saliency of content. “Cold” reasoning trials resulted in enhanced activity in lateral/dorsal lateral prefrontalcortex and suppression of activity in ventral medial prefrontalcortex. By contrast, “hot” reasoning trials resulted in enhanced activation in VMPFC and suppression of activation in L/DLPFC. This reciprocal engagement of L/DLPFC and VMPFC provides evidence for a dynamic neural system for reasoning, the configuration of which is strongly influenced by emotional saliency. (shrink)
Recent studies suggest that lucid dreaming might be associated with increased brain activity over frontal regions during rapid eye movement sleep. By applying transcranial direct current stimulation , we aimed to manipulate the activation of the dorsolateral prefrontalcortex during REM sleep to increase dream lucidity. Nineteen participants spent three consecutive nights in a sleep laboratory. On the second and third nights they randomly received either 1 mA tDCS for 10 min or sham stimulation during each REM period (...) starting with the second one. According to the participants’ self-ratings, tDCS over the DLPFC during REM sleep increased lucidity in dreams. The effects, however, were not strong and found only in frequent lucid dreamers. While this indicates some preliminary support for the involvement of the DLPFC in lucid dreaming, further research, controlling for indirect effects of stimulation and including other brain regions, is needed. (shrink)
We tested an architect with a lesion to the right prefrontalcortex in a real-world architectural design/planning task that required him to develop a new design for our lab space and compared his performance to an age- and education-matched architect. The patient understood the task and even observed that this is a very simple problem. His sophisticated architectural knowledge base was still intact and he used it quite skilfully during the problem structuring phase. However, the patient's problem-solving behaviour (...) differed from the control's behaviour in the following ways: he was unable to make the transition from problem structuring to problem solving; as a result preliminary design did not start until two thirds of the way into the session; the preliminary design phase was minimal and erratic, consisting of three independently generated fragments; there was no progression or lateral development of these fragments; there was no carry-over of abstract information into the preliminary design or later phases, and the patient did not make it to the detailing phase. This suggests that the key to understanding our patient's deficit is to understand the cognitive processes and mechanisms involved in the preliminary design phase. We appeal to a theory of design problem solving that associates cognitive processes involved in preliminary design with lateral state transformations and argues that ill-structured representational and computational systems are necessary to support these transformations. We conclude that the neural basis of this system is selectively damaged in our patient. (shrink)
The human self model suggests that the construct of self involves functions such as agency, body-centered spatial perspectivity, and long-term unity. Vogeley, Kurthen, Falkai, and Maieret (1999) suggest that agency is subserved by the prefrontalcortex and other association areas of the cortex, spatial perspectivity by the prefrontalcortex and the parietal lobes, and long-term unity by the prefrontalcortex and the temporal lobes and that all of these functions are impaired in schizophrenia. (...) Exploring the connections between the prefrontalcortex and the construct of self, the present article extends the application of the self model to autism. It suggests that in contrast to schizophrenia, agency and spatial perspectivity are probably preserved in autism, but that, similarly to schizophrenia, long-term unity is probably impaired. This hypothesis is compatible with a model of neuropsychological dysfunction in autism in a neural network including parts of the prefrontalcortex, the temporal lobes, and the cerebellum. (shrink)
Emotional feeling can be defined as the affective constituent of emotions representing a subjective experience such as, for example, feeling love or hate. Several recent neuroimaging studies have focused on this affective component of emotions thereby aiming to characterise the underlying neural correlates. These studies indicate that the orbitomedial prefrontalcortex is crucially involved in the processing of emotional feeling. It is the aim of this paper to analyse the extent to which the present state of the art (...) in neuroscience enables emotional feeling to be related to specific brain regions. In the first step, methodological and theoretical problems in the investigation of emotional feeling will be discussed leading to the characterisation of a “twofold gap.” This gap represents (a) the theoretical difficulties encountered in transforming vivid subjective experience into a theoretical psychological concept, and (b) the problems of implementing such a concept by performing empirical studies. Based on these considerations we suggest approaches for future empirical studies. In the second step, a group of functional neuroimaging studies focusing on the affective constituent of emotions will be discussed in detail with regard to the theoretical problems outlined in the first step. (shrink)
& Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined whether individual differences in amygdala activation in response to negative relative to neutral information are related to differences in the speed with which such information is evaluated, the extent to which such differences are associated with medial prefrontalcortex function, and their relationship with measures of trait anxiety and psychological well-being (PWB). Results indicated that faster judgments of negative relative to neutral information were associated with increased left and right amygdala (...) activation. In the prefrontalcortex, faster judgment time was associated with relative decreased activation in a cluster in the ventral anterior cingulate cor-. (shrink)
The ventromedial prefrontalcortex (VMPFC) is crucial for moral behavior, yet the mechanism through which the VMPFC promotes moral behavior remains unclear. In this article, we emphasize that moral choice is often intertemporal, requiring foregoing short-term gains in favor of future outcomes of larger value. We propose that the VMPFC may be necessary for mental time travel (MTT), a cognitive process enabling vivid preexperiencing of future outcomes. By providing anticipated outcomes that inform decisions, MTT may promote farsighted, moral (...) behaviors. (shrink)
The current model, based on event-related potential (ERP) studies, posits that the working-memory system is a state of activated long-term memory; this appears comprehensive, but it needs further detailed analysis of functional neural connectivity analysis within the prefrontalcortex (PFC) and between the posterior and prefrontalcortex. Specifically, the role of dorsolateral PFC and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is probably critical for PFC's attentional controller. Neural implementation of the executive function in working memory appears critical (...) to build a firm model. (shrink)
Halford et al.'s analysis of relational complexity provides a possible framework for characterizing the symbolic functions of the prefrontalcortex. Studies of prefrontal patients have revealed that their performance is selectively impaired on tasks that require integration of two binary relations (i.e., tasks that Halford et al.'s analysis would identify as three-dimensional). Analyses of relational complexity show promise of helping to understand the neural substrate of thinking.
The role of the prefrontalcortex is one of the most topical and important areas of research in contemporary neuropsychology. This cortical region appears to be linked with executive processes affecting many diverse areas of cognitive function. Working memory, information processing, behavioural organization, attention, judgement, and the ability to cope with novel experiences are just some of the diverse processes it affects. This book brings together contributions from some of the world's leading researchers on the prefrontal (...) class='Hi'>cortex. They discuss the many recent theoretical and technical advances in the field - for example in our understanding of the neural architecture of the prefrontalcortex, in the development of comparable texts of cognition in humans and other primates, in our understanding of the relationships between neuronal activity and behaviour, and in the increasing use of functional neuroimaging to identify different levels of organization within the prefrontalcortex. These important developments make this an ideal time to address the many questions and debates that have arisen about the role and functional organization of this area of the brain. One of the first books to be written on the subject, The PrefrontalCortex is a state-of-the-art account of our knowledge of this exciting subject. It will be welcomed by all researchers and students in neuro- and cognitive psychology, and neuroscience. (shrink)
In this commentary, the formation of “pre-iconic” visual-prime persistence is described in the context of prime-specific, independent-component activation at prefrontal and posterior EEG-recording sites. Although this activity subserves neural systems that are near identical to those described by Ruchkin and colleagues, we consider priming to be a dynamic process, identified with patterns of coherence and temporal structure of very high precision.