Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Frontal lobe damage impairs decision-making. Most studies have employed gambling and probabilistic tasks, which have an emotional (reward-punishment) component and found that patients with ventromedial sector lesions have exceptional difficulty performing normally on these tasks. We have recently presented an economic decision-making task to patients and normal volunteers that required them to not only forecast an economic outcome but also to weigh advice from four advisors about the possible outcome across 40 trials. We studied 20 patients with right frontal lobe lesions and 9 patients with parietal lobe lesions and compared their performance to 20 matched controls. Frontal lobe lesion patients were inconsistent at using advice and their forecasts were poor. Patients with dorsolateral but not orbito-frontal lesions showed some ability to assess advice. Patients with parietal lobe lesions were good at assessing advice but were slow at doing so; they were consistent but poor at using advice and their use of advice was unrelated to their forecasting. All three patient groups were overconfident in their own performance. In contrast, controls could both use and assess advice, their ability to use advice was mediated by their ability to assess it, and they were not overconfident. Group differences on an overall measure of accuracy on this task were associated with an ability to accurately plan. Differences in ability to assess and forecast were associated with planning and working memory performance. These findings indicate that patients with both right dorsolateral and orbito-frontal lesions may be impaired when required to make complex decisions related to forecasting and judgment. Our findings enlarge the scope of decision-making deficits seen in patients with frontal lobe lesions and indicate additional circumstances in which patients with frontal lobe lesions will have difficulty in deciding.