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Essential functions of primate frontopolar cortex in cognition

Boschin, Erica A., Piekema, Carinne, Buckley, Mark J.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 v.112 no.9 pp. E1020
Primates, animal models, animals, brain, cognition, cortex
Brodmann’s area 10 is one of the largest cytoarchitecturally defined regions in the human cerebral cortex, occupying the most anterior part of the prefrontal cortex [frontopolar cortex (FPC)], and is believed to sit atop a prefrontal hierarchy. The crucial contributions that the FPC makes to cognition are unknown. Rodents do not possess a FPC, but primates do, and we report here the behavioral effects of circumscribed FPC lesions in nonhuman primates. FPC lesions selectively impaired rapid one-trial learning about unfamiliar objects and unfamiliar objects-in-scenes, and also impaired rapid learning about novel abstract rules. Object recognition memory, shifting between established abstract behavioral rules, and the simultaneous application of two distinct rules were unaffected by the FPC lesion. The distinctive pattern of impaired and spared performance across these seven behavioral tasks reveals that the FPC mediates exploration and rapid learning about the relative value of novel behavioral options, and shows that the crucial contributions made by the FPC to cognition differ markedly from the contributions of other primate prefrontal regions.