Psychological Research

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 289–298

Executive functions and the frontal lobes: a conceptual view

  • Donald T. Stuss
  • Michael P. Alexander

DOI: 10.1007/s004269900007

Cite this article as:
Stuss, D. & Alexander, M. Psychological Research Psychologische Forschung (2000) 63: 289. doi:10.1007/s004269900007


Several problems in understanding executive functions and their relationships to the frontal lobes are discussed. Data are then presented from several of our studies to support the following statements: (1) the examination of patients with focal frontal lobe lesions is a necessary first step in defining the relation of executive functions to the frontal lobes; (2) there is no unitary executive function. Rather, distinct processes related to the frontal lobes can be differentiated which converge on a general concept of control functions; (3) a simple control-automatic distinction is inadequate to explain the complexity of control-automatic processes; (4) the distinction between complex and simple tasks cannot explain the differences in functions between the frontal lobes and other brain regions; and (5) the most important role of the frontal lobes may be for affective responsiveness, social and personality development, and self-awareness and unconsciousness.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald T. Stuss
    • 1
  • Michael P. Alexander
    • 1
  1. 1.Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, 3560 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario M6A 2E1, Canada e-mail: rotman@rotman-baycrest.on.caCA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychology and Medicine (Neurology and Rehabilitation Science), University of Toronto, Toronto, CanadaCA
  3. 3.Department of Neurology, Harvard University, Beth Israel Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USAUS