The Psychology of Everyday Life: Motivation and the Search For Happiness

The Biology of Money

What function does the prefrontal cortex serve?

The prefrontal cortex is the most anterior (or frontal) part of the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe makes up the front half of the cerebral cortex, which is the wrinkled outer covering of the brain. The pre-frontal cortex integrates information from the rest of the brain, creating an overview of our current situation. Not only does the prefrontal cortex create a representation of our self in our environment, but it can create representations of future conditions. In this way, the prefrontal cortex supports our ability to plan, set future goals, and correct our behavior in pursuit of these goals. The pre-frontal cortex is also involved with the precise, careful analysis of information, such as the calculation of cost over time.

Because the prefrontal cortex can create and hold representations of possible events and not just current events, our prefrontal cortex allows us to be more flexible in our thinking and even to come up with creative new solutions to problems. This is in contrast with the evolutionarily older parts of the brain involved with emotion. These areas are more stimulus dependent, more bound to cues in the present. The frontal lobe is also involved in inhibiting our emotional reactions; it inhibits the lim-bic system and other parts of the brain that mediate drive and motivation. In other words, the frontal cortex allows us to regulate emotion and impulse with thought.


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