Two patients with medial frontal lobe damage involving the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) performed a range of cognitive tasks, including tests of executive function and anterior attention. Both patients lesions extended beyond the ACC, therefore caution needs to be exerted in ascribing observed deficits to the ACC alone. Patient performance was compared with age and education matched healthy controls. Both patients showed intact intellectual, memory, and language abilities. No clear-cut abnormalities were noted in visuoperceptual functions. Speed of information processing was mildly reduced only in Patient 2 (bilateral ACC lesion). The patients demonstrated weak or impaired performance only on selective executive function tests. Performance on anterior attention tasks was satisfactory. We tentatively suggest that our findings are inconsistent with anterior attention theories of ACC function based on neuroimaging findings. We propose that the data may imply that the ACC does not have a central role in cognition. We speculate that our findings may be compatible with the view that the ACC integrates cognitive processing with autonomic functioning to guide behaviour.
- Anterior cingulate cortex