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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2007 May 29;362(1481):901-15.

Is there a dysexecutive syndrome?

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Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, 3560 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6A 2E1.


The role of the frontal lobes has often been described as a 'paradox' or a 'riddle'. Ascribed to this region has been the loftiest of functions (e.g. executive; seat of wisdom); others contested that the frontal lobes played no special role. There has also been controversy about the unity or diversity of functions related to the frontal lobes. Based on the analysis of the effects of lesions of the frontal lobes, we propose that there are discrete categories of functions within the frontal lobes, of which 'executive' functioning is one. Within the executive category, the data do not support the concept of an undifferentiated central executive/supervisory system. The results are better explained as impairments in a collection of anatomically and functionally independent but interrelated attentional control processes. Evidence for three separate frontal attentional processes is presented. For each process, we present an operational description, the data supporting the distinctiveness of each process and the evidence for impairments of each process after lesions in specific frontal regions. These processes and their coarse frontal localizations are energization-superior medial, task setting-left lateral and monitoring-right lateral. The strength of the findings lies in replication: across different tasks; across different cognitive modalities (e.g. reaction time paradigms, memory); and across different patient groups. This convergence minimizes the possibility that any of the findings are limited to a specific task or to a specific set of patients. Although distinct, these processes are flexibly assembled in response to context, complexity and intention over real time into different networks within the frontal regions and between frontal and posterior regions.

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