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Neuropsychologia. 2009 Aug;47(10):2125-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.04.002. Epub 2009 Apr 14.

Dissociable effects of prefrontal and anterior temporal cortical lesions on stereotypical gender attitudes.

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  • 1Cognitive Neuroscience Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1440, USA.


Clinical observations of patients with ventral frontal and anterior temporal cortical lesions reveal marked abnormalities in social attitudes. A previous study in seven patients with ventral prefrontal lesions provided the first direct experimental evidence for abnormalities in social attitudes using a well-established measure of gender stereotypes, the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Here, we were able to test whether these first findings could be reproduced in a larger sample of 154 patients with penetrating head injuries, and to determine the differential effects of ventromedial prefrontal (vmPFC) and ventrolateral prefrontal (vlPFC) cortical lesions on IAT performance. In addition, we investigated the role of the superior anterior temporal lobe (aTL), recently shown to represent conceptual social knowledge. First, we used a linear regression model to identify the role of each of the three regions, while controlling for the extent of damage to other regions. We found that larger lesions in either the vmPFC or the superior aTL were associated with increased stereotypical attitudes, whereas larger lesions in the vlPFC were associated with decreased stereotypical attitudes. Second, in a confirmatory analysis, we grouped patients by lesion location and compared their performance on the IAT with that of healthy volunteers. Compared to controls, patients with lesions in either the vmPFC or the superior aTL showed increased stereotypical attitudes, whereas patients with lesions in the vlPFC showed decreased stereotypical attitudes. The functional contributions of these regions in social attitudes are discussed.

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