The impact of different aetiologies on the cognitive performance of frontal patients

Lisa Cipolotti, Colm Healy, Edgar Chan, Fay Bolsover, Francesca Lecce, Mark White, Barbara Spanò, Tim Shallice, Marco Bozzali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuropsychological group study methodology is considered one of the primary methods to further understanding of the organisation of frontal 'executive' functions. Typically, patients with frontal lesions caused by stroke or tumours have been grouped together to obtain sufficient power. However, it has been debated whether it is methodologically appropriate to group together patients with neurological lesions of different aetiologies. Despite this debate, very few studies have directly compared the performance of patients with different neurological aetiologies on neuropsychological measures. The few that did included patients with both anterior and posterior lesions.We present the first comprehensive retrospective comparison of the impact of lesions of different aetiologies on neuropsychological performance in a large number of patients whose lesion solely affects the frontal cortex. We investigated patients who had a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), high (HGT) or low grade (LGT) tumour, or meningioma, all at the post-operative stage. The same frontal 'executive' (Raven's Advanced Progressive Matrices, Stroop Colour-Word Test, Letter Fluency-S; Trail Making Test Part B) and nominal (Graded Naming Test) tasks were compared. Patients' performance was compared across aetiologies controlling for age and NART IQ scores. Assessments of focal frontal lesion location, lesion volume, global brain atrophy and non-specific white matter (WM) changes were undertaken and compared across the four aetiology.We found no significant difference in performance between the four aetiology subgroups on the 'frontal' executive and nominal tasks. However, we found strong effects of premorbid IQ on all cognitive tasks and robust effects of age only on the frontal tasks. We also compared specific aetiology subgroups directly, as previously reported in the literature. Overall we found no significant differences in the performance of CVA and tumour patients, or LGT and HGT patients or LGT, HGT and meningioma's on our four frontal tests. No difference was found with respect to the location of frontal lesions, lesion volume, global brain atrophy and non-specific WM changes between the subgroups.Our results suggest that the grouping of frontal patients caused by different aetiologies is a pragmatic, justified methodological approach that can help to further understanding of the organisation of frontal executive functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Aetiology
  • Cognitive performance
  • Executive functions
  • Frontal lesions
  • Stroke
  • Tumour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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