Hold'em, Fold'em

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Science  05 Oct 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5540, pp. 17
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5540.17c

One of the most widely used tests of deficits in prefrontal cortex (PFC) function (as might occur in patients with brain damage) is the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST). Test cards must be matched to one of a set of reference cards on the basis of common color, number of items, or the shape of the item represented on the card. Changing the classification criterion tests for two components of executive function: shifting to a new set of rules and monitoring recent events that are held in working memory.

Monchi et al. have used event-related functional brain imaging to obtain supporting evidence for the existence of coincident activity in areas within the PFC and the basal ganglia, as would be expected if circuits connecting these areas subserved the executive function. They observed that midventrolateral PFC (Brodmann area 47/12) and the caudate were both active after negative feedback had been given, meaning that a rule change had occurred and thus that set-shifting was required. The middorsolateral PFC (area 9/46) was active after both negative and positive feedback, suggesting that this area was involved in monitoring performance and accessing working memory. The putamen, another part of the basal ganglia, was active during the match made after negative feedback, consistent with a role in executing a novel action.—GJC

J. Neurosci.21, 7733 (2001).

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