Neurological patients with focal lesions in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and age-matched control subjects were tested on an auditory version of the delayed-match-to-sample task employing environmental sounds. Subjects had to indicate whether a cue (S1) and a subsequent target sound (S2) were identical. On some trials, S1 and S2 were separated by a silent period of 5 sec. On other trials, the 5-sec delay between S1 and S2 was filled with irrelevant tone pips that served as distractors. Behaviorally, frontal patients were impaired by the presence of distractors. Electrophysiologically, patients generated enhanced primary auditory cortex-evoked responses to the tone pips, supporting a failure in inhibitory control of sensory processing after prefrontal damage. Intrahemispheric reductions of neural activity generated in the auditory association cortex and additional intrahemispheric reductions of attention-related frontal activity were also observed in the prefrontal patients. Together, these findings suggest that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is crucial for gating distracting information as well as maintaining distributed intrahemispheric neural activity during auditory working memory.

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