The contribution of primate frontopolar cortex to cognition
Dr Mark Buckley
Departmental Seminar Series
Thursday, 23 October 2014, 12pm to 1pm
Lecture Theatre C, Experimental Psychology
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Brodmann’s area 10 is one of the largest cytoarchitecturally defined regions in human cerebral cortex occupying the most anterior part of prefrontal cortex (frontopolar cortex, FPC ) and is believed to sit atop a prefrontal hierarchy. The similarity in cytoarchitecture and connections is highly suggestive of some conservation of FPC function across primate species, yet the crucial contributions that FPC makes to cognition are unknown. Rodents do not possess FPC but primates do and in this seminar I’ll report the behavioural effects of the first circumscribed FPC lesion in any species. The crucial contributions made by FPC to cognition differ from those of other prefrontal and medial frontal regions and some of the key differences we have found in our recent research will be highlighted. In particular, the distinctive pattern of impaired, spared, and enhanced performance across eleven different behavioural tasks after FPC lesions reveals that FPC mediates exploration and rapid learning about the relative value of novel behavioral options of a broad kind. One may theorize that human FPC is imbued with greater processing power enabling humans to explore the relative value of a wider range of novel alternatives that support our more advanced goal-directed behaviours. Nonetheless, for some, for example highly developed flexibility in learning and shifting between potential goals in complex changing environments, precursors may exist in macaques.