Impairments in proverb interpretation following focal frontal lobe lesions

Patrick Murphy, Tim Shallice, Gail Robinson, Sarah E. MacPherson, Martha Turner, Katherine Woollett, Marco Bozzali, Lisa Cipolotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The proverb interpretation task (PIT) is often used in clinical settings to evaluate frontal "executive" dysfunction. However, only a relatively small number of studies have investigated the relationship between frontal lobe lesions and performance on the PIT. We compared 52 patients with unselected focal frontal lobe lesions with 52 closely matched healthy controls on a proverb interpretation task. Participants also completed a battery of neuropsychological tests, including a fluid intelligence task (Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices). Lesions were firstly analysed according to a standard left/right sub-division. Secondly, a finer-grained analysis compared the performance of patients with medial, left lateral and right lateral lesions with healthy controls. Thirdly, a contrast of specific frontal subgroups compared the performance of patients with medial lesions with patients with lateral frontal lesions. The results showed that patients with left frontal lesions were significantly impaired on the PIT, while in patients with right frontal lesions the impairments approached significance. Medial frontal patients were the only frontal subgroup impaired on the PIT, relative to healthy controls and lateral frontal patients. Interestingly, an error analysis indicated that a significantly higher number of concrete responses were found in the left lateral subgroup compared to healthy controls. We found no correlation between scores on the PIT and on the fluid intelligence task. Overall our results suggest that specific regions of the frontal lobes contribute to the performance on the PIT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2075-2086
Number of pages12
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Executive function
  • Fluid intelligence
  • PFC
  • Proverbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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