Pre means before. Frontal means front.

What does cortex means? Brain?

Is it the front most part of the brain? Is it located at the most frontal part of the brain and that's why it's called prefrontal cortex?

Is morality processed at ventro medial pre frontal cortex or at anterior singular cortex?

My background: I am a programmer. I just want to understand humans brain the way a programmer understand computer. It seems that we don't have CPU. We have huge analog based memory. And we got registers instead of tons of abstract variables. Understanding why certain part of the brain is named under certain things will help me a lot in remembering where exactly that thing is and why. It's something very useful in my ways of learning math and programming.

Basically there are 2 theories.

  1. Prefrontal cortex is named as such because it's before (or in front of) prefrontal lobe.
  2. It's because it's behind prefrontal bone (the way other brain lobes are named)

Some people told me to just look that up on wikipedia. If you can show me something in wikipedia explaining the exact answer I am looking for I will be very happy.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It seems your question can largely be answered by reading the wikipedia article $\endgroup$
    – Real
    Aug 26, 2017 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ I have read wikipedia article. Most contain info such as occipital lobe is named such because it's behind occipital bone. I got to dig a lot before I found what ob caput mean. $\endgroup$
    – user4951
    Aug 29, 2017 at 1:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ From the Wikipedia article: The term "prefrontal" as describing a part of the brain appears to have been introduced by Richard Owen in 1868.[6] For him, the prefrontal area was restricted to the anterior-most part of the frontal lobe (approximately corresponding to the frontal pole). It has been hypothesized that his choice of the term was based on the prefrontal bone present in most amphibians and reptiles.[6] $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Aug 29, 2017 at 3:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think in general "cortex" means "outer layer", and it's used for many things besides the brain: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortex_(anatomy) $\endgroup$
    – Yrast
    Aug 29, 2017 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ Okay I didn't found it when I look for it. People got to read the whole article. Do you think this kind of question is appropriate? I am not a doctor. I just want to learn a lot because it fascinate me. I am a programmer. $\endgroup$
    – user4951
    Aug 29, 2017 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a part of the frontal lobe (Fig. 1).

Lobe means

[A part] demarcated from the rest of the organ by a fissure (crack), sulcus (groove), connective tissue or simply by its shape. For example, there are the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes of the brain.

Cortex means

The outer or superficial part of an organ or bodily structure (such as the kidney, adrenal gland, or cerebellum or a bone); especially: cerebral cortex

The frontal lobe is called as such, because... it's in the front of the brain.

The prefrontal cortex is called that way because it forms the frontmost part of the frontal cortex. Prefrontal means

anterior to or involving the anterior part of a frontal structure

Anterior meaning

situated before or toward the front

Indeed Siddiqui et al (2008) mention:

The anterior part of the frontal lobe referred in the literature as ‘pre’-frontal lobe has been simultaneously referred to as ‘frontal granular cortex’ and ‘frontal association cortex.’ The anterior most portion of the frontal lobe is occupied by the PFC...

- Siddiqui et al., Indian J Psychiatry (2008); 50(3): 202–8

frontal lobe
Fig. 1. The frontal lobe includes the prefrontal cortex (PFC). source: Socratic


I think the term pre-frontal does not mean anatomically in the front of the frontal lobe of the brain. This is regarded to the history of discovered area , that the choice of the term was based on the prefrontal bone present in most amphibians and reptiles.you can find this in etymology part ▶️enter link description here

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. There is no prefrontal bone in humans. $\endgroup$
    – user4951
    Aug 29, 2017 at 1:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Are you sure? got sources? $\endgroup$
    – user4951
    Aug 29, 2017 at 3:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @J.Chang not in the human ,the prefrontal bone which is present in most amphibians and reptiles and this has been hypothesized for the choice of the term . $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2017 at 9:08

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