Prefrontal Cortex

Definition

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the cerebral cortex which covers the front part of the frontal lobe. This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour. The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals. The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function. Executive function relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social “control” (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes). The frontal cortex supports concrete rule learning, while more anterior regions along the rostro-caudal axis of the frontal cortex support rule learning at higher levels of abstraction. (adapted from Wikipedia)

Prefrontal_cortex_(left)_-_lateral_view

Prefrontal cortex of left cerebral hemisphere. Shown in red. Polygon data were generated by Database Center for Life Science(DBCLS)[2].Polygon data are from BodyParts3D[1]

The Prefrontal Cortex in 60 seconds from The Neuropsychotherapist on Vimeo.

Clinical Relevance

  • Reduced volume and interconnections of the frontal lobes with other brain regions has been observed in people diagnosed with mental disorders; those subjected to repeated stressors; suicides; those incarcerated; criminals; sociopaths; those affected by lead poisoning; and daily cannabis users.
  • Feeling guilt or remorse, and to interpret reality, may be dependent on a well-functioning prefrontal cortex.
  • The size and number of connections in the prefrontal cortex could relate directly to sentience, as the prefrontal cortex in humans occupies a far larger percentage of the brain than any other animal.
  • The left and right halves of the prefrontal cortex appear to become more interconnected in response to consistent aerobic exercise.
  • Practicing mindfulness can enhance prefrontal activation, which is correlated with increased well-being and reduced anxiety.

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