Managing competing goals - A key role for the frontopolar cortex

Farshad Alizadeh Mansouri, Etienne Koechlin, Marcello G. P. Rosa, Mark J. Buckley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

168 Citations (Scopus)


Humans are set apart from other animals by many elements of advanced cognition and behaviour, including language, judgement and reasoning. What is special about the human brain that gives rise to these abilities? Could the foremost part of the prefrontal cortex (the frontopolar cortex), which has become considerably enlarged in humans during evolution compared with other animals, be important in this regard, especially as, in primates, it contains a unique cytoarchitectural field, area 10? The first studies of the function of the frontopolar cortex in monkeys have now provided critical new insights about its precise role in monitoring the significance of current and alternative goals. In human evolution, the frontopolar cortex may have acquired a further role in enabling the monitoring of the significance of multiple goals in parallel, as well as switching between them. Here, we argue that many other forms of uniquely human behaviour may benefit from this cognitive ability mediated by the frontopolar cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-657
Number of pages13
JournalNature Reviews Neuroscience
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • cognitive neuroscience
  • human behaviour
  • prefrontal cortex

Cite this