Organization of the Human Frontal Pole Revealed by Large-Scale DTI-Based Connectivity: Implications for Control of Behavior.
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The goal of the current study was to examine the pattern of anatomical connectivity of the human frontal pole so as to inform theories of function of the frontal pole, perhaps one of the least understood region of the human brain. Rather than simply parcellating the frontal pole into subregions, we focused on examining the brain regions to which the frontal pole is anatomically and functionally connected. While the current findings provided support for previous work suggesting the frontal pole is connected to higher-order sensory association cortex, we found novel evidence suggesting that the frontal pole in humans is connected to posterior visual cortex. Furthermore, we propose a functional framework that incorporates these anatomical connections with existing cognitive theories of the functional organization of the frontal pole. In addition to a previously discussed medial-lateral distinction, we propose a dorsal-ventral gradient based on the information the frontal pole uses to guide behavior. We propose that dorsal regions are connected to other prefrontal regions that process goals and action plans, medial regions are connected to other brain regions that monitor action outcomes and motivate behaviors, and ventral regions connect to regions that process information about stimuli, values, and emotion. By incorporating information across these different levels of information, the frontal pole can effectively guide goal-directed behavior.