The effects of frontal cortex lesions on event-related potentials during auditory selective attention

Robert T. Knight, Steven A. Hillyard, David L Woods, Helen J. Neville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Scopus citations


We compared electrophysiological indices of auditory selective attention in control subjects and in patients with unilateral lesions of the dorsolateral frontal lobes. In control subjects, ERPs following attended tones showed an enhanced negativity from 80 to 500 msec post-stimulus which had a different topographic distribution than the N120. Lesions of the frontal lobes reduced the attention-related negativity and impaired behavioral performance. The ERP reductions were equivalent in recordings obtained from electrodes placed over the damaged and intact cortex. A difference was noted between left and right frontal groups as a function of ear of delivery of the stimuli. Patients with left frontal lesions showed reduced attention effects following tones presented to either ear. Patients with right frontal lesions showed intact attention effects to right ear tones, but no attention-related negativity to left ear tones. When the left and right frontal groups were considered together, tones in ignored channels produced larger responses when presented to the ear contralateral to damaged cortex. These results underline the important role of the frontal lobes in processes of selective attention. Although the endogenous negativity produced in selective attention tasks does not appear to originate in dorsolateral frontal cortex, the frontal lobes exhibit a modulating influence upon it. In addition, the endogenous attention related negativity and exogenous N120 components apparently arise from different neural generators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-582
Number of pages12
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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