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What Is The Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex (VLPFC)

The ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), part of the prefrontal cortex, is located on the inferior frontal gyrus, bounded superiorly by the inferior frontal sulcus and inferiorly by the lateral sulcus, being attributed to the anatomical structures of Brodmann’s area (BA) 47, 45 and 44 (considered the subregions of the VLPFC – the anterior, mid and posterior subregions). Specific functional distinctions have been presented between these three subregions.

Ventrolateral prefrontal cortex
Human brain, left hemisphere. Brodmann Areas 47. 45. 44 are shown, which correspond to VLPFC
Credit: Alexhng CC BY-SA 3.0

There are also specific functional differences in activity in the right and left VLPFC. Neuroimaging studies employing various cognitive tasks have shown that right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region is a critical substrate of control.

Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex Functions

The whole right VLPFC is active during motor inhibition having a critical role, meaning when the person is walking, and suddenly stops – the VLPFC activates to stop or to override the motor activity in the cortex. The right posterior ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (BA 44) is active during the updating of action plans. The right middle VLPFC (BA 45) is responding to decision uncertainty.

Neuroimaging studies employing various cognitive tasks have shown that right VLPFC region is a critical substrate of control. At present, two prominent theories feature the right  ventrolateral prefrontal cortex as a key functional region.

From one perspective, right VLPFC is thought to play a critical role in motor inhibition, where control is engaged to stop or override motor responses.

Alternatively, Corbetta and Shulman have advanced the hypothesis that there are two distinct fronto-parietal networks involved in spatial attention, with right VLPFC being a component of a right-lateralized ventral attention network that governs reflexive reorienting. From this perspective, right lateral PFC, along with a region spanning right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and the inferior parietal lobule, are engaged when abrupt onsets occur in the environment, suggesting that these regions are involved in re-orienting attention to perceptual events that occur outside the current focus of attention.

Also, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex is the end point of the Ventral Pathway (Stream) that brings information about the stimuli’s characteristics, although the ventrolateral frontal cortex isn’t fully developed durning pregnancy.