Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Elizabeth Altmaier

Second Advisor

Daniel Tranel

Abstract

Executive functioning is a multidimensional concept encompassing higher-order adaptive abilities, such as judgment, decision-making, self-monitoring, planning, and emotional regulation. Disruption in executive functioning often results in devastating impairments in vitally-important areas of life, such as one's ability to hold employment and maintain social relationships.

Executive functions have been associated primarily with the prefrontal cortex. However, the nature and degree of the association between frontal lobe damage and performance on executive functioning tests remains controversial. Research suggests that the association may vary based on the specific location of damage within the prefrontal cortex, as well as the used measure of executive functioning. Few investigations have systematically addressed these variables. The current study employed the lesion method to investigate the relationship between performance on a battery of executive functioning tests and damage to specific regions of the prefrontal cortex. Three groups of participants with lesions in one of the locations of interest [ventromedial prefrontal (VMPC, n = 14), dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPC, n = 14), and non-frontal (n = 18)] were administered the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS, 2001), a comprehensive battery of executive functioning tests. Results revealed no statistically-significant differences between group performances on the D-KEFS primary measures. However, a qualitative analysis of the results revealed several meaningful group differences. It appears that some relationship exists between frontal lobe damage, particularly in the DLPC, and decreased performance on several executive functioning tests but further research overcoming the methodological limitations of most existing literature on this topic is needed to clearly resolve this issue.

Keywords

Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System, Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex, Executive functioning, Frontal lobe, Lesion, Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex

Pages

viii, 121 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 114-121).

Copyright

Copyright 2010 Ekaterina Keifer

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