Verbal suppression and strategy use: A role for the right lateral prefrontal cortex?

Gail A. Robinson, Lisa Cipolotti, David G. Walker, Vivien Biggs, Marco Bozzali, Tim Shallice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Verbal initiation, suppression and strategy generation/use are cognitive processes widely held to be supported by the frontal cortex. The Hayling Test was designed to tap these cognitive processes within the same sentence completion task. There are few studies specifically investigating the neural correlates of the Hayling Test but it has been primarily used to detect frontal lobe damage. This study investigates the components of the Hayling Test in a large sample of patients with unselected focal frontal (n = 60) and posterior (n = 30) lesions. Patients and controls (n = 40) matched for education, age and sex were administered the Hayling Test as well as background cognitive tests. The standard Hayling Test clinical measures (initiation response time, suppression response time, suppression errors and overall score), composite errors scores and strategy-based responses were calculated. Lesions were analysed by classical frontal/posterior subdivisions as well as a finer-grained frontal localization method and a specific contrast method that is somewhat analogous to voxel-based lesion mapping methods. Thus, patients with right lateral, left lateral and superior medial lesions were compared to controls and patients with right lateral lesions were compared to all other patients. The results show that all four standard Hayling Test clinical measures are sensitive to frontal lobe damage although only the suppression error and overall scores were specific to the frontal region. Although all frontal patients produced blatant suppression errors, a specific right lateral frontal effect was revealed for producing errors that were subtly wrong. In addition, frontal patients overall produced fewer correct responses indicative of developing an appropriate strategy but only the right lateral group showed a significant deficit. This problem in strategy attainment and implementation could explain, at least in part, the suppression error impairment. Contrary to previous studies there was no specific frontal effect for verbal initiation. Overall, our results support a role for the right lateral frontal region in verbal suppression and, for the first time, in strategy generation/use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1084-1096
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2015


  • frontal cortex, neuropsychology
  • Hayling Test
  • inhibitory processes
  • strategy generation and use
  • verbal suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)


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