The cognitive control network: Integrated cortical regions with dissociable functions

Michael W Cole, Walter Schneider
NeuroImage 2007 August 1, 37 (1): 343-60
Consensus across hundreds of published studies indicates that the same cortical regions are involved in many forms of cognitive control. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that these coactive regions form a functionally connected cognitive control network (CCN). Network status was identified by convergent methods, including: high inter-regional correlations during rest and task performance, consistently higher correlations within the CCN than the rest of cortex, co-activation in a visual search task, and mutual sensitivity to decision difficulty. Regions within the CCN include anterior cingulate cortex/pre-supplementary motor area (ACC/pSMA), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), inferior frontal junction (IFJ), anterior insular cortex (AIC), dorsal pre-motor cortex (dPMC), and posterior parietal cortex (PPC). We used a novel visual line search task which included periods when the probe stimuli were occluded but subjects had to maintain and update working memory in preparation for the sudden appearance of a probe stimulus. The six CCN regions operated as a tightly coupled network during the 'non-occluded' portions of this task, with all regions responding to probe events. In contrast, the network was differentiated during occluded search. DLPFC, not ACC/pSMA, was involved in target memory maintenance when probes were absent, while both regions became active in preparation for difficult probes at the end of each occluded period. This approach illustrates one way in which a neuronal network can be identified, its high functional connectivity established, and its components dissociated in order to better understand the interactive and specialized internal mechanisms of that network.

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