Background: List-learning tasks are frequently used to provide measures of “executive functions” that are believed necessary for successful memory performance. Small sample sizes, confounding anomia, and incomplete representation of all frontal regions have prevented consistent demonstration of distinct regional frontal effects on this task. Objective: To confirm specific effects of lesions in different frontal regions. Subjects: Forty-one patients with chronic focal frontal lesions and 38 control subjects. There were no group differences in naming scores. Methods: Two word lists were presented, one with unblocked words from related categories and one in a preblocked format. Standard measures of learning, recall, recognition, and strategies were obtained, first for the frontal group as a whole and then for large but defined frontal regions. For all measures with significant group differences, a lesion “hotspotting” method identified possible specific regional injury effects. Results: The frontal group was impaired on almost all measures, but impairments on most measures were particularly identified with lesions in the left superior frontal lobe (approximately area 9s) and some deficits in learning processes were surprisingly more prominent on the blocked list. Conclusion: Difficulty with list learning is not a general property of all frontal lesions. Lesions in different frontal regions impair list learning through specific mechanisms, and these effects may be modified by manipulations of the task structure.

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