Psychological Research (2000) 63: 289±298

Ó Springer-Verlag 2000


Donald T. Stuss á Michael P. Alexander

Executive functions and the frontal lobes: a conceptual view

Received: 31 March 1999 / Accepted: 23 July 1999

Abstract Several problems in understanding executive functions and their relationships to the frontal lobes are discussed. Data are then presented from several of our studies to support the following statements: (1) the examination of patients with focal frontal lobe lesions is a necessary ®rst step in de®ning the relation of executive functions to the frontal lobes; (2) there is no unitary executive function. Rather, distinct processes related to the frontal lobes can be di€erentiated which converge on a general concept of control functions; (3) a simple control-automatic distinction is inadequate to explain the complexity of control-automatic processes; (4) the distinction between complex and simple tasks cannot explain the di€erences in functions between the frontal lobes and other brain regions; and (5) the most important role of the frontal lobes may be for a€ective responsiveness, social and personality development, and self-awareness and unconsciousness.

The understanding of executive functions has been dicult for multiple reasons. In this review we outline some methodological and conceptual obstructions, present our current position, and provide supporting

D. T. Stuss (&) á M. P. Alexander Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, 3560 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario M6A 2E1, Canada e-mail: D. T. Stuss á M. P. Alexander Departments of Psychology and Medicine (Neurology and Rehabilitation Science), University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada M. P. Alexander Department of Neurology, Harvard University, Beth Israel Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

evidence for this viewpoint. We conclude with suggestions for future research directions. A major problem has been the inconsistent and interchangeable use of both psychological and anatomical de®nitions of executive and frontal functions. While study of the e€ects of damage to the frontal lobes has been the most common way to study frontal lobe functions, many researchers still use the term ``frontal functions'' as a synonym for ``executive functions'', without objective reference to anatomy. Yet the relationship between ``executive'' or ``supervisory'' functions to ``frontal lobe'' functions is not clear. Even those who research the e€ects of frontal lobe damage have often not clearly de®ned the anatomical limits of the pathology. It is understandable why this has occurred historically. The executive functions of human cognition are among the most interesting of processes. Researchers interested in these issues are, however, faced with a dilemma. While executive functions can be studied as pure psychological processes, the constant association between executive and frontal functions suggests some type of relationship. A signi®cant diculty in studying frontal lobe functions, however, exists: there is no clinical condition with speci®c and easily limited relation to the frontal lobes (with the possible exception of frontal lobe dementia in the early stages). It is time consuming (years!) to obtain a sucient number of patients with well-de®ned focal frontal lobe lesions to address the issues of speci®city of functions to the frontal lobes in general, not even considering distinctions within the frontal lobes. If one superimposes the possibility that di€erent processes required to complete a single task may be related to di€erent areas in the entire brain, as well as to potentially di€erent regions within the frontal lobes, it is easy to understand why understanding the functions of the frontal lobes, and the relation of di€erent tasks to the frontal lobes, has been so dicult. Further problems exist because of experimental methodological issues. Evaluating patients for frontal

the current knowledge of how to dissociate processes within a task. It therefore has been dicult to devise precise experimental manipulations to study these processes. but the patients were unable to sustain the top-down e€ort to complete the task consistently. might fail on a frontal lobe test (Anderson. Yet many routine. 1996. and a high degree of control may be required. Such variability very likely might confound experimental studies of frontal lobe functions. Many theorists have considered the supervisory or executive functions in a unitary manner. This was hypothesized to be related to dysfunction in the frontal lobes. it would be no wonder that patients with posterior lesions who might have visual neglect. and performance could be impaired for reasons other than dysfunction in the frontal lobes (Stuss. That is. it is no wonder that few studies with precise characterization of the lesion location and the patient have been completed. 1991. Closely allied to this concept is the sensitivity and speci®city of such frontal lobe tests. The experience of the examiner and the structure of the testing situation are also important factors. who argued that the supervisory system was a term representing a uni®ed function of ¯uid intelligence. or comprehension problems. We (Stuss. If one considers how dicult it is to ®nd such patients and how dicult it may be to obtain appropriate localizing information (and how this was unavailable in the past). This is particularly true if the test is more ``complex''. For example. It is relatively easy to ``become the frontal lobes'' of a patient or research participant (Stuss. 1991c. what is complex for one person can be simple for another. Moreover. Alexander & Picton. and have attempted to characterize the lesion location and extent as well as possible in naturally occurring (with the possible exception of resection for tumors or epilepsy) lesions in . but not another. Damasio. Terms such as ``executive'' functions. 1995). Most clinicians and researchers have had the experience of an intelligent control subject totally failing on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test because they hypothesized much more complex sorting strategies than were required. which may confound the examination of functions of the frontal lobes. Stuss. has been dicult because of our available tests. Rolls. This control is invoked when the level of complexity of a task requires more than routine processing. 1986. in contrast. was usually not available when these tests were developed. Hugenholtz. located in more posterior brain regions. Thus. 1995). is required. This multi-factorial nature is also at least partially responsible for the low correlations among frontal lobe tests. let alone the functions of the frontal lobes. A ®nal consideration relates to the individual di€erences among patients. when old information must be considered in new ways. A re¯ection of this diculty in de®ning the terms is the signi®cant debate over the unity or diversity of function of the frontal lobes. Stuss et al. or ``g''. most explicitly posited this idea. as was considered necessary to elicit frontal lobe dysfunction.. The quality of the dependent measures themselves may raise an obstacle. we have been bound by previous distinctions made to try to understand these terms. overlearned acts can be very complex. That is. Our position We have limited our research to patients with focal lesions of the frontal lobes. Each patient brings a di€erent background to the testing situation. Pogue. It is therefore no wonder that the study of executive functions. such external structure is one mechanism for rehabilitating these de®cits. particularly in humans. A consistent idea in many theories of frontal lobe functions has been that these frontal processes are activated when control of more automatic processes. one distinction has been made between ``complex'' and ``routine'' tasks in an attempt to characterize the di€erences between frontal and posterior processes. Another methodological warning relates to the very meagre evidence on the validity and reliability of the tests of frontal functions. Moreover. Stuss & Benson. 1984. both from methodological and conceptual standpoints. Here we outline our position on the study of frontal lobe functions. has been so dicult. Others. Shallice & Burgess. In an ongoing study (Stuss. Stethem. Pivik & Richard. 1991). and a relatively simple task can be made complex by the interpretation of the subject. Shallice. suggest that there are many frontal functions (Baddeley. in that the ability to complete a task was intact. ``supervisory system'' and ``control'' functions are not easily operationalized. It is also important to realize that many tests used to assess frontal lobe damage were developed for other reasons. 1989.290 lobe dysfunction. they could do the task one day. 1999). Buckle & Bondar. or using neuropsychological tests to correlate with performance on experimental tasks as a means of extrapolating to the underlying brain mechanism (as in normal aging studies). which may in¯uence the performance on any speci®c test. Many ``executive'' tests are multi-factorial. Duncan (1995). or when the information to be processed is novel. developed in cognitive psychology. Picton. Tests that are speci®c may not be sensitive. 1987). Jones & Tranel. Moreover. the primary relation of visual performance to the frontal lobes seems to be supported. Indeed. ``dysexecutive control''. 1994b) reported that individuals su€ering from traumatic brain injury were variable in their performance on a particular reaction time task. 1996. and then provide data that led us to these statements. Stuss. Murphy & Binns. Perhaps the most signi®cant problem in the study of executive or frontal functions has been conceptual in nature. the noise is the data. Tests that may be sensitive may not be speci®c. A similar distinction has been between control and automatic processes.

and complexity must be de®ned. Rather. These results in patients with focal frontal lobe lesions can eventually be compared to concepts of executive function de®ned purely in a psychological sense. or a standard comparison to the control group (e. Impairment on a speci®c test or process may not be related to one brain region. Sayer. While a generally consistent frontal lobe syndrome can be found in some patients. and to argue just for a frontal/ posterior dissociation related to control/automatic processes is inadequate. The remainder of the review presents selected data from our studies in patients with focal lesions (with one exception) to demonstrate the above statements. While patients with a di€erent location of lesions are impaired on a task. We emphasize that there are speci®c processes related to di€erent brain regions within the frontal lobes. The procedure we used to address the underlying reasons why our results were incongruent with standard teaching was as follows: list all patients in order of performance. a€ecting language systems. the neural systems underlying the task must be understood. no unitary executive function. we pursued the reasons behind this signi®cant di€erence in recognition performance [a subsequent meta-analysis by Wheeler. 1. damage to the left frontal lobe. from best to worst. this syndrome label described patients with extensive damage to the frontal lobes often late after injury. However. Franchi & Alexander. Our ®nal emphasis is on an old concept of the frontal lobes ± the frontal lobes are very intimately linked to the limbic system and a€ect. Supporting evidence Cognitive functions of the frontal lobes Memory The historical controversy about the role of the frontal lobes in memory is classically dichotomized into two separate camps: damage to the frontal lobes does not/ does result in a memory disturbance. social and personality development. Craik. Sayer & Pogue. The ®rst observation was that left frontal and bifrontal lesions did result in a signi®cant recognition de®cit. the most important role of the frontal lobe may not be for executive cognitive processes. Since this was contrary to most published results and the most common view of the role of the frontal lobes in memory. they are likely impaired for di€erent reasons. The processes of the frontal lobes are necessary for more than just complex tasks. A study of the performance of patients with focal frontal lobe lesions on a listlearning task was one of the ®rst studies we performed that led us to a di€erent approach in demonstrating separation of processes within the frontal lobes (Stuss. such as splithalf division. Buckle. List-learning performance. not all patients with such ruptures su€ered . They may not necessarily be totally equivalent. There is no frontal homunculus. exceeds two SDs).. the manipulation of complexity in experimental tasks may help to determine how an integrated brain works. The idea of a supervisory system is very applicable. impaired performers. use a criterion to di€erentiate the good vs. 1987) or in the literature on aging (Stuss. Stuss and Tulving (1995) has brought into the question this ``accepted'' view]. There are many types and levels of control. While the immediately preceding point would seem to support the concept of a dissociation of control ± automatic processes. Most of the patients with septal damage had su€ered the consequences of anterior communicating artery aneurysm rupture. but for a€ective responsiveness. 1994a). and self-awareness and consciousness. Rather. if the emphasis is on a system constructed of multiple parts. In this stepwise manner. More importantly. and some did not. even using patients with a common etiology. Palumbo. This approach led us to isolate two separate and independent factors that led to an apparently similar recognition de®cit: damage to the septal region. This approach has proven successful in understanding disorders such as neglect (Heilman.291 human patients. We used lesion location and di€erentiation of processes (by correlational analyses with other neuropsychological measures) to examine our hypothetical reasons as to why some patients with frontal lobe lesions had a recognition de®cit. and ®nally establish and test hypotheses as to why the speci®c individuals were impaired. and that simple frontal/posterior dissociations do not capture the complexity of human cognitive processing. Watson & Valenstein. a€ecting the limbic memory system related to explicit memory. Alexander. apparently simple processes related to the frontal lobes can be identi®ed. In our opinion this is the ®rst step in limiting the terms of reference in the study of executive and frontal functions. In a similar vein. we suggest that this dissociation requires considerable re®nement. We hope to demonstrate that the interaction is much more complex. Stated di€erently. there are distinct processes that do converge on a general concept of control functions. 1996). during an epoch in medical history when adequate imaging for earlier diagnosis and treatment was not available. There are important implications of this ®nding. A corollary conclusion is that it is inadequate to discuss patients with frontal lobe damage as a group. the position that there is no frontal homunculus suggests that there is not a single frontal lobe syndrome with point-to-point correspondence to a homunculus.g. From a clinical viewpoint. and also to the discussion of executive functions found in more di€use orders (Goldberg & Bilder. The distinction is a relative one. we propose that the distinction between complex and simple tasks cannot by itself explain the di€erences in functions between the frontal lobes and other brain regions. 1985). Indeed. We have examined the role of the frontal lobes in memory functions in di€erent ways. operational de®nitions of the functions of the frontal lobes and of executive functions can be developed.

Pathology in the left frontal lobe appears to a€ect encoding. septal damage (see also DeLuca. free recall and secondary memory. Young and old subjects were compared. The role of frontal functions in implicit and explicit recall. Implicit memory tests are considered to be measures of automatic functions. Several observations can be made from these data. but only the word-stem completion. On the other hand. DeLuca & Diamond. 1. Only the patients with left frontal and limbic-septal pathology had a signi®cant recognition de®cit. 2 The ordinate depicts the amount of correlation. Moscovitch and Stuss (1996) tested this assumption using a correlational method in which performance on tests that have been more related to frontal or medial-temporal functions was correlated with performance on word-stem and word-fragment tasks that required either explicit recall or implicit memory. One might expect that impairment of memory after frontal injury would only occur in a demanding explicit memory task. This study nevertheless needs to be replicated in patients with focal lesions. á Fig. Winocur. This left/right frontal di€erence in encoding and retrieval is also consistent with imaging studies (Nyberg. 2. SM secondary memory. These lesion data re¯ecting left-right frontal di€erences in encoding and retrieval are consistent with the imaging HERA model (see text) (REC recognition. That is. taken as the measure of ``frontal'' lobe functioning). On the left side is the explicit recall version of the task. FR free recall. there is apparent support for both the heterogeneity and homogeneity of frontal lobe processes. Explicit recall is correlated with the CVLT. implicit recall is signi®cantly correlated with the F-A-S score. The patients with right frontal lobe damage did not have signi®cant problems in recall. Retrieval problems were observed in patients with right frontal lobe damage. an implicit memory task should not depend on equations of the frontal lobes. but a test of frontal function was signi®cantly correlated with the implicit version. The abscissa indicates two types of memory tasks. two measures more associated with retrieval ± monitoring (double recalls) and retrieval set (inconsistency of recall). if di€erent processes are assessed. Moscovitch & Houle. and examined if the de®ned patient groups were di€erentially impaired (recall the procedure: from task to process to mechanism). The explanation o€ered for this ®nding was that word-stem completion requires generative search processes as well as perceptual identi®cation processes. PM primary memory. in the middle are depicted primary memory. The results are outlined in the Fig. all patients with frontal lobe damage were impaired on the Tulving and Colotla (1970) subjective organization score. The measures on the left re¯ect primarily encoding ± recognition. All groups were signi®cantly de®cient on subjective organization. Tulving. The direction of the arrows indicates normal ( ) or impaired ( ) performance. We demonstrate a similar ®nding in the study on attention described below. Moscovitch and Winocur (1997) replicated and extended these ®ndings. There is a di€erence between the e€ect of damage to the right and left frontal lobes. and the subjective organization (pair frequency) score. on the right. Cabeza & Tulving. Cons consistency) á 2. The neuropsychological test related to medial-temporal areas correlated with the explicit version of the task. S-O subject organization. which re¯ects top-down organizational strategies. 1996. on the right the implicit recall version. DR double recall. on the one test. A double dissociation was observed. 1992. In¯uenced by cognitive psychology. None of the patient groups had a primary memory de®cit. This study addressed the control/automatic distinction in relation to ``frontal'' processes. 1994). but only stem completion . Craik. Each test result is correlated with the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) (used here as re¯ecting more the limbic-hippocampal memory system) and verbal ¯uency (F-A-S. word-stem (WS) and wordfragment (WF) completion. if one used the strict distinction between control and automatic processes and the relation to frontal and posterior brain regions. This is illustrated in Fig. Kapur. 1995).292 Fig. while the right frontal lobe is more involved in retrieval processes such as monitoring of output (recalling words that had already been recalled ± double recalls) and maintaining consistent recall over trials (retrieval set?). we also isolated other measures within the list-learning task. As such. Nyberg. 1 Three di€erent groups of patients with focal frontal lobe lesions are compared on a word-list learning task.

Shallice. There were no signi®cant di€erences between the normal control group and the leucotomized patients. Verbal ¯uency Research with the standard tests of ``frontal lobe functions'' reveals the inadequacy of some popular beliefs Fig. and to examine the speci®city of supposed anterior attentional processes to the frontal lobes. and frontal and posterior processes. We (Stuss. while on sabbatical at the Maudsley Hospital in London. suggesting that the only way to discuss the results is to use the concepts of neural functional systems. Toth. (2) the control-automatic distinction is a complex interactive one. Supposedly executive processes are required for performance on some implicit tests of memory. Benson. Franchi. Kaplan. (What is the e€ect of inhibiting a motor response on subsequent trials?). 2. The objectives of the study were to dissociate possible anterior attentional processes. UU four capital case letters are used. England. suggest the following conclusions: 1. 3 This ®gure summarizes the performance of patients with lesions in de®ned brain regions on three di€erent measures of attention. Inhibition is not simply a function of the frontal lobes. Signi®cant impairment for each group is identi®ed by the placement of a particular symbol within a task and level of diculty. measured at three di€erent levels of task complexity. compared to responding to that target when it was presented simultaneously with a distractor. Yet clinical observation does not necessarily translate into factual data. D. and their relation to particular frontal brain regions. Alexander. Benson that there could be no doubt: the major impairment after orbitofrontal leucotomy was a severe attentional disorder. The boxed areas help identify all the brain regions resulting in a signi®cant impairment on a task . alter the interaction of neural systems. 3. 4. summarized in Fig. Three measures (see text): INT interference. 3. IOR inhibition of return. 1981. (What is the e€ect of extra irrelevant information?) Negative priming: The e€ect of a change in the location of a target.293 These ®ndings have signi®cant implications: (1) no test of memory is process pure (see also Jacoby & Kelly. (What is the e€ect of previous inhibition of irrelevant information on subsequent processing?) Inhibition of return: The response inhibition measure indexes the extra time required to respond to a target when the location of that target is identical to the location of the previous trial when the response had to be suppressed to that location. 1991). requiring at least some processing beyond perceptual matching. and these attentional processes can be related to di€erent brain regions within the frontal lobes. As noted above. Apparently simple processes can be related to the frontal lobes. One example illustrates this. Frank Benson. Three levels of task diculty: OX a constant mapping of one target (o) and one distractor (x). were analyzed. LU the same letters. the test structure could have been such that ``frontal'' demands might have been minimized. 1981). Weir & Della Malva. Automatic implicit processes may in¯uence performance on explicit tests. 5. was scheduled to give a lecture on an ongoing study at the Boston VA on the long-term e€ects of orbitofrontal leucotomy. There is an interaction between anterior and posterior attentional processes. NP negative priming. There have been only a few studies investigating the speci®city of attentional disturbances. Task demands. Mesulam. but this time the target is identi®ed in lower (L) case but the target appears in upper (U) case. The results. to evaluate the e€ect of task complexity. 1988. It is also possible that the tests used did not require the processes related to the region of the frontal lobes most often damaged after frontal leucotomy. including task complexity. Attention Most clinicians will attest to the attentional disturbance in patients with frontal lobe damage. whose lesions were quite large (Stuss. particularly when the target is presented in the location where a distractor had been in a previous trial. Di€erent anterior attentional processes can be isolated. The three measures were the following: Interference: The di€erence in response time to select a target presented alone. the target changing for each trial and identi®ed at a central location. The frontal lobes have been hypothesized to play a central and di€erent role from posterior brain regions in attentional functions (Posner. Tipper & Craik. (3) the necessity of strategic processes in what appears to be a simple task calls into question a simple distinction between simple and complex functions. Some months later the test data. 1988). The data had not been analyzed but the ®rst author of this paper very con®dently informed Dr. including demanding tests such as the Stroop. 1999) pursued the question of the role of the frontal lobes in attention by employing a spatialselection task that di€erentiates di€erent types of putative anterior attentional processes. There are several reasons for this discrepancy between the clinical observations and the research data.

BF bifrontal. The CART technique resulted in a ®ner distinction of right and left frontal (both primarily dorsolateral). The new groupings are not just a simple division. Mauri. We devised a novel analysis of lesion site on one of these ``standard'' tests. left frontal and bifrontal. superior medial. Yet much of the more recent research on frontal lobe functions has been directed to the cognitive role of this brain region. 1986. While all of these methods of grouping the patient participant can produce interesting results. Sartori & di Paola. Frank. but produced normal cluster sizes. Perhaps the most important new trend in the study of the functions of the frontal lobes is an old emphasis: the study of personality and a€ective changes after damage to this area. and awareness. One pathway for the frontal lobes to in¯uence emotional responsiveness is via the amygdala (Adolphs. not alterations in cognition. 1984) method follows a re-iterative process so that variables can be re-introduced until the maximum degrees of separation can be found. The role of the frontal lobes in cognition is logical. 1994). Heuser & Gehlen. Troyer and colleagues at the Rotman (Troyer. Birbaumer. Damasio. In the past. the new superior medial and inferior medial groups may include individuals who had previously been identi®ed as right or left frontal.294 about executive functions. a. LDL left dorsolateral frontal. Babinsky. 1996). Markowitsch. Alexander. Figure 4 demonstrates how the two approaches differ. Patients with frontal lobe damage were originally classi®ed as right frontal. Moscovitch. Damasio & Damasio. These new groups now can be analyzed for statistical di€erences in performance. Olshen & Store. Identify each of these regions as damaged (1) or not structurally damaged (0). Galaburda & Damasio. Kessler. Patients with left dorsolateral or superior medial lesions switched less frequently. to allow analysis of the contributions of each subsystem to a de®cit performance when most subjects had lesions involving more than one subsystem. Analysis of strategic processes to complete tasks is another means of distinguishing processes related to di€erent brain regions. temporal lobe patients performed normally for both switching and clustering. Grabowski. d. left frontal and bifrontal regions. 1998) demonstrated this using the verbal ¯uency task. On semantic ¯uency. Friedman. however. The Classi®cation and Regression Tree (Brieman. Nauta (1973) proposed that the amygdala and the dorsomedial thalamic nucleus present information from the limbic system specifying the status of a€ective feeling and of the viscero-endocrine periphery state to the frontal lobes. a€ect. Prefrontal lobotomies and leucotomies were performed to e€ect behavioral and personality change. c. The knowledge about Phineas Gage being ``no longer Gage'' after his accident has been almost universally disseminated (Ripley's ``Believe it or not TV show''.g. RNF right nonfrontal. these methods of patient classi®cation for analyses do not allow examination of precise brainbehavior relations. Use a regression technique that separates by extremes of performance. and recent anatomical demonstrations of frontal subsystems (e. each entered independently into the statistical analyses. Fig. 1995. A . CTL control). and left temporal damage resulted in more problems in clustering. considering the anatomical connectivity of the frontal lobes with posterior knowledge and perceptual systems. or left and right hemisphere damage. and inferior medial groups. The ®gure is somewhat misleading. 1973). Subdivide the frontal lobes based on past behavioral research. DeLong & Strick. Flor. Calabrese. however. verbal ¯uency.. and indeed may be the only way to analyze the data if the sample size is not large enough to follow the methods proposed. Petrides & Pandya. For example. 1994). Alexander & Stuss. Only in frontal lobes are a€ective state and perceptual and associational activity integrated. Tranel. Wurker. LNF left nonfrontal. SM superior medial. The black columns represent the standard lesion classi®cations (RF right frontal. Some studies have extended the distinction by isolating patients with damage to the right frontal. Palomba. 1994) which is essential for modulation of emotion (Angrilli. Durwen. LT left temporal) The role of the frontal lobes in humor. Winocur. A€ective information provides navigational markers to the valence value for decision making (Nauta. LP left parietal. IM inferior medial. The white identi®es the restructured groups (see text for method) (RDL right dorsolateral frontal. Brechtelsbauer. b. studies of brain-behavior relations compared frontal to posterior brain regions. 4 This ®gure demonstrates how further lesion speci®cation clari®es results in a phonological ¯uency task. Using these new groupings provides a ®ner distinction among the patient subjects. LF left frontal. these temporal lobe patients were impaired in switching. On phonemic ¯uency. there are perhaps even more logical reasons to study the neuropsychiatry of the frontal lobes.

distinct from dysfunction in the frontal ``executive'' abilities. Yet there was a lack of awareness of the implications of the disorder. di€erent from the knowledge-based disorders of awareness in patients with posterior lesions. Evolutionary development of the frontal lobes is another reason to emphasize the a€ective role of the frontal lobes. Cabeza. We summarize our observations on disorders of selfawareness. Stuss and Tulving (1997) proposed that the prefrontal regions. Tulving & Kapur. The largest evolutionary developmental di€erence between man and the highest of non-human primates is in Brodmann area 10 of the frontal lobes (Petrides and Pandya. intimacy and immediacy of the two separate memories that occurred at separate times. perceptual-motor. ®ght and procreate. higher order primates. provide essential organization for episodic memory guiding the recall of experience with its associated emotions and connecting the recollections with plans and expectations for the future (see also Craik. Following James (1891/1952). and right anterior temporal lobe damage (Alexander. The executive mediation level is predominantly localized to ventrolateral and dorsolateral frontal regions. we postulated that his belief in two families was based on the warmth. (5) The two highest levels are instantiated in frontal lobes. While monkeys do not have the ability to use a mirror as a mirror. 1994. 2000). Picton & Alexander. It is plausible. Moscovitch. and we have postulated such a model for self-awareness (Picton & Stuss. 1991) who label these somatic markers. Yet monkeys clearly have executive abilities of some kind. executive mediation. self-awareness. in press). This is an area that evolved from the olfactory base of animals. although perhaps unprovable. The emotional salience and impact of two episodic memories (personal. with the exception of frontal lobe functions. ¯ight. Tranel & Damasio. and a de®cit in acting in his own self-interest. and a study on humor appreciation. . 1979). 1994). This belief persisted. On neuropsychological examination. 1998). he began to report a ``new''. Ingvar (1985) and Fuster (1997) have also asserted that the frontal lobes generate ``memories of the future''. During the period of recovery. as if he was judging the story told by someone else. 1991a. as supportive evidence for the importance of the frontal lobes in these domains. b). Human consciousness is an unstable template of experience and emotion. when the patient was presented the situation as a nonpersonal occurrence. inhibition and facilitation of parietotemporal association cortices and working memory capacities. Moroz. This model has several properties: (1) There are four operational levels: arousal-attention. Tulving & Stuss. It incorporates action planning. that brain region related to the four ``Fs'' of animal interactions: fear. We examined a patient after operation for removal of a right frontal astrocytoma (Stuss. such as chimpanzees. Mcintosh. Stuss & Benson. Black. Indeed. This patient had more than adequate knowledge of his life and work diculties. was ®rst suggested by basic research in animal self-awareness using the ``mirror'' test. he called it ``amazing'' and ``unbelievable''. particularly on the right. an impairment in using intact knowledge to guide personal decision. Self-awareness Many of the models of brain functioning have a hierarchical component to them. That there may be a higher level of self-awareness related to frontal functions. Without that he could organize no clear purposes to motivate his actions. Toth. Our interest in disturbed self-awareness initiated with our report of a patient who had Capgras Syndrome (belief that an imposter has taken the role of a signi®cant other) secondary to bilateral frontal lobe damage.295 similar proposal has been proposed more recently by Damasio and colleagues (Damasio. Stuss. Open and closed neural loops through basal ganglia and cerebellum provide neural space for unfolding complex plans and for learning frequently used plans. Only humans appear to have a re¯ective consciousness of the self as an entity across time (Stuss. recognized by the extensive research on frontal lobe executive functions using the monkey. in press). 1999. more extensive on the right. constrain or facilitate the analyses and operations that will occur. Experience must be monitored over the past and present and anticipated or imagined in the future. Stuss. This case exempli®es a disorder of model construction and monitoring at the level of the frontal lobes. virtually identical to his ®rst family. 1986. second family. bias. providing a tentative digest of the analyses and associations within that level. performance was excellent. 1991a. despite his recovery on most cognitive abilities. Wheeler. (4) Direct contact with the external environment is restricted to the perceptual-motor level. (2) Each operational level feeds forward to higher levels. Stuss. that he had a de®cient mental model of the entire self. The impaired executive functioning precluded any personal review. individual) allowed these memories to be ``a€ectively burnt in'' (Stuss & Alexander. The depth of this temporal integration varies with the hierarchical level. Stuss & Benson. Sinden. Levine. Gallup (1991) found no evidence that a monkey can use a mirror to recognize its own re¯ection as an image of itself. (6) Self-awareness emerges from convergence of emotional states and memory ± not simply explicit remote memory of experience or explicit semantic knowledge ± but memory of abstract mental states that allow construction of expectancy and thus memory for the future. He was initially confused and amnesic. even with standard frontal lobe tests. b. Winocur. orangutans and human children after a certain age easily perform this act of visceral consciousness. Picton & Alexander. validation or correction of the situation. (3) Each operational level also feeds backward to lower levels to modulate.

The patients who were impaired had lesions in a rather selective region ± the superior right frontal polar/medial region.g. assessment of a large number of patients with localized lesions. while aware that the feeling is not accessible in the present and will not be in the future. and personality. Shammi and Stuss (1999) extended the study of the role of the frontal lobes (particularly right frontal) in emotional. Complex tasks are multi-factorial. Our studies suggest several methods to assist in establishing more speci®c behavioral distinctions within the frontal lobes: ®ner lesion location. The right frontal lobe may be essential for this capacity of mental juggling. and the cerebellum. but the data presented here support the proposition that distinct processes are related to di€erent regions of the frontal lobes. Increasing the complexity of a task may demand multiple processes in di€erent frontal lobe regions..2 by Richard Powers. this brain region appears functionally homogeneous. Under certain circumstances (still to be delineated but complexity of task seems to be one super®cially similar factor). A potentially exciting approach would be to have parallel studies of patients with focal lesions and those with psychiatric disorders. The frontal regions involved in supervisory and self-awareness processes are supported by numerous subcortical loops that consistently involve the thalamus. Feeling and understanding the continuity of experience appear to depend on the unique convergence of personal a€ective state. with one exception. which required scanning of a picture. Both lesion studies and activation imaging studies will be required to explain the roles of these structures in ``frontal'' tasks. Linear. and detection of details. and then evaluating the determinants of performance. our argument suggests that there is no discrete central supervisory system. and starting with performance ®rst. 1. the striatum. 3. Activation studies in normals with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). socialization. In Galatica 2. The central supervisory system is the sum of the processes recruited at any moment. of abstract knowledge of the a€ect of others or even the self in hypothetical circumstances (theory of mind). One particularly important avenue may be the di€erentiation of the anterior attentional processes. use of cognitive neuropsychology to help di€erentiate processes.296 Humour Both the patient with the Capgras Syndrome and the patient who had lost integrated awareness of his experiences. the simple/complex dichotomy as related to posterior/frontal processes must be considered with caution. The ability to appreciate certain forms of humor correlated with speci®c cognitive abilities (e. and of retrieval of the memory of personal experience (autonoetic consciousness) that occurs in the right frontal lobe. had damage in the right frontal region. Comparison of patients with focal lesions in various brain regions with experiments of supervisory processes should gradually explain the network interactions between various anterior and posterior regions. Some future research directions Because we have frontal lobes we can imagine important areas of future research. there is no ghost in the mind's machine. and patients with lesions in many di€erent regions of the brain may be impaired on these. Conclusions and discussion The question of the unity versus diversity of the functions of the frontal lobes has been a long-standing controversy. In addition. these patients do not feel or appreciate humor even when they recognize its existence. Patients with posterior lesions were not impaired on the tasks. visual search with the cartoons). Beyond simply understanding humor. impairments can be found after damage in many if not most areas of the frontal lobes. Taken to its reductionist endpoint. sequential models of supervisory networks will blend with simultaneous emergent models. positron emission tomography and event-related potentials (ERPs) also point to speci®c brain regions for particular elements of supervisory processes. language with the verbal tasks. We have identi®ed some of the processes and marshaled evidence for their relationship to speci®c frontal regions. The patients with right posterior lesions had diculty on a cartoon appreciation task. continued study of patients with disparate focal frontal lesions should continue as a primary tool to clarify and characterize dissociable supervisory processes. past and future. for any task. a€ective behavior by studying the ability to appreciate verbal and non-verbal humor in patients with various focal lesions. Newer methods of analysis of activation paradigms may disentangle the supportive from the essential element of a brain network activated by speci®c supervisory processes.. For the processes that underlie self-awareness. the narrator suggests that there may be no better de®nition of consciousness than the ability to remember a past experience and the powerful feelings that accompanied it. When functions of the frontal lobes are tested with complex tasks. Processing capacity re¯ected in working memory may be so taxed at high levels of complexity that more general frontal lobe resources are recruited. Could the . Although logistically dicult and experimentally messy. There should be a renewed emphasis on the neuropsychiatry of the frontal lobes: e. The right frontal lobe is required for the subtle convergence of cognition and a€ect essential to humor. depression. 2. This is probably a major reason for some of the controversy in studies of the validity of ``frontal lobe'' tests. 4. current evidence from both lesion studies and activation studies points to a critical role for the right frontal lobe.g.

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