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Front Hum Neurosci. 2009 Oct 9;3:28. doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.028.2009. eCollection 2009.

Anterior prefrontal involvement in implicit contextual change detection.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Magdeburg Magdeburg, Germany.


Anterior prefrontal cortex is usually associated with high level executive functions. Here, we show that the frontal pole, specifically left lateral frontopolar cortex, is involved in signaling change in implicitly learned spatial contexts, in the absence of conscious change detection. In a variant of the contextual cueing paradigm, participants first learned contingencies between distractor contexts and target locations implicitly. After learning, repeated distractor contexts were paired with new target locations. Left lateral frontopolar [Brodmann area (BA) 10] and superior frontal (BA9) cortices showed selective signal increase for this target location change in repeated displays in an event-related fMRI experiment, which was most pronounced in participants with high contextual facilitation before the change. The data support the view that left lateral frontopolar cortex is involved in signaling contextual change to posterior brain areas as a precondition for adaptive changes of attentional resource allocation. This signaling occurs in the absence of awareness of learned contingencies or contextual change.


BA10; awareness; executive function; fMRI; implicit learning

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