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Many tests of specific 'executive functions' show deficits after frontal lobe lesions. These deficits appear on a background of reduced fluid intelligence, best measured with tests of novel problem solving. For a range of specific executive tests, we ask how far frontal deficits can be explained by a general fluid intelligence loss. For some widely used tests, e.g. Wisconsin Card Sorting, we find that fluid intelligence entirely explains frontal deficits. When patients and controls are matched on fluid intelligence, no further frontal deficit remains. For these tasks too, deficits are unrelated to lesion location within the frontal lobe. A second group of tasks, including tests of both cognitive (e.g. Hotel, Proverbs) and social (Faux Pas) function, shows a different pattern. Deficits are not fully explained by fluid intelligence and the data suggest association with lesions in the right anterior frontal cortex. Understanding of frontal lobe deficits may be clarified by separating reduced fluid intelligence, important in most or all tasks, from other more specific impairments and their associated regions of damage.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





234 - 247


Adult, Aged, Executive Function, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Intelligence, Male, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Young Adult