Effects of prefrontal lesions on lexical processing and repetition priming: An ERP study

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42 Scopus citations


The role of left prefrontal cortex in lexical-semantic processing remains a matter of some debate. Functional neuroimaging experiments have reported blood flow changes in left inferior prefrontal cortex (LIPC) during tasks that involve word retrieval and semantic processing. Some of these studies have also implicated LIPC in repetition priming. To determine the necessity of prefrontal cortex for these types of memory and to elucidate their time-course, behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) correlates of lexical processing and repetition priming were examined in 11 stroke patients with lesions centered in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (areas 9 and 46). Damage extended inferiorly and posteriorly to areas 6, 8, 44, and 45 in some subjects, so patients were subdivided into anterior and posterior frontal subgroups. Visually presented words and pronounceable non-words were repeated after one of three delays. Subjects categorized stimuli as either words or non-words in a lexical decision task. Controls showed significant word priming at all three delays. Old words elicited more positive-going potentials than new words, beginning at 300 ms and lasting until 500-700 ms. This ERP repetition effect was reduced, but not eliminated, by both anterior and posterior frontal lesions. However, behavioral priming was intact in the patients, suggesting that prefrontal cortex may modulate the neural generators in posterior cortical regions that are critical for priming. Left posterior frontal lesions resulted in impaired performance in the lexical decision task and a reduction in the amplitude of the late positive component (LPC). These latter findings suggest that left posterior prefrontal cortex is important for the categorization and selection processes required by lexical- semantic tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-157
Number of pages15
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1998


  • Event-related potential
  • Implicit memory
  • Lexical
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Repetition priming
  • Semantic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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