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Title: Functional specialisation within rostral prefrontal cortex
Author: Benoit, R. G.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2010
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The functional organisation of rostral prefrontal cortex (rPFC; approximating Area 10) is largely unknown. On one hand, this region might support processes that are commonly involved in coping with multiple demands. On the other hand, rPFC might be fractionated into functionally specialised subregions. This thesis examines which of these accounts is more plausible. Therefore, four functional MRI studies were conducted, each of which compared two functions. These were hypothesised to share common processing denominators that might be supported by medial rPFC (mrPFC). It was assessed whether the functions are associated with haemodynamic signal changes in overlapping versus segregated subregions. Study I investigated the involvement of rPFC in prospective memory and in stimulus-oriented (i.e. triggered by the environment) versus stimulus-independent (i.e. decoupled from the environment) processing. Study II asked participants to envision future episodes of spending money (e.g., £35 at a Pub). It was hypothesised that subregions supporting such episodic prospection might also exhibit haemodynamic signal changes as a function of the imagined reward value (e.g., £35). In study III, participants first made personality trait judgements about themselves and others (i.e., their best friends), and then tried to remember the target of each judgement. It was investigated whether mrPFC subregions involved in thinking about oneself during those tasks might also support thinking about others to the degree that the other person is perceived as similar. Study IV examined the relationship between mrPFC engagement during self-appraisal and individual differences in the valuation of future rewards. Overall, the data are most consistent with a synthesis of the two accounts: mrPFC seems to be functionally fractionated. However, the specialised subregions appear to be engaged irrespective of the exact task context (e.g., the nature of the stimuli). Thus, these regions may be characterised as supporting central functions that are involved in coping with multiple demands.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available