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Neuropsychologia. 2008;46(7):2020-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.02.001. Epub 2008 Feb 7.

Distraction during relational reasoning: the role of prefrontal cortex in interference control.

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Center for BrainHealth, The University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX 75235, USA.


We compared the reasoning performance of patients with frontal-variant frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with that of patients with temporal-variant FTLD and healthy controls. In a picture analogy task with a multiple-choice answer format, frontal-variant FTLD patients performed less accurately than temporal-variant FTLD patients, who in turn performed worse than healthy controls, when semantic and perceptual distractors were present among the answer choices. When the distractor answer choices were eliminated, frontal-variant patients showed relatively greater improvement in performance. Similar patient groups were tested with a relational-pattern reasoning task that included manipulations of one or two relations and both perceptual and semantic extraneous information. Frontal-variant patients showed performance deficits on all tasks relative to the other subject groups, especially when distracted. These results demonstrate that intact prefrontal cortex (PFC) is necessary for controlling interference from perceptual and semantic distractors in order to reason from relational structure.

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