Special Reviews

Anterior Prefrontal Function and the Limits of Human Decision-Making

Science  26 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5850, pp. 594-598
DOI: 10.1126/science.1142995

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Abstract

The frontopolar cortex (FPC), the most anterior part of the frontal lobes, forms the apex of the executive system underlying decision-making. Here, we review empirical evidence showing that the FPC function enables contingent interposition of two concurrent behavioral plans or mental tasks according to respective reward expectations, overcoming the serial constraint that bears upon the control of task execution in the prefrontal cortex. This function is mechanistically explained by interactions between FPC and neighboring prefrontal regions. However, its capacity appears highly limited, which suggests that the FPC is efficient for protecting the execution of long-term mental plans from immediate environmental demands and for generating new, possibly more rewarding, behavioral or cognitive sequences, rather than for complex decision-making and reasoning.

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