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      Dynamic reconfiguration of frontal brain networks during executive cognition in humans

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          Abstract

          The brain is an inherently dynamic system, and executive cognition requires dynamically reconfiguring, highly evolving networks of brain regions that interact in complex and transient communication patterns. However, a precise characterization of these reconfiguration processes during cognitive function in humans remains elusive. Here, we use a series of techniques developed in the field of "dynamic network neuroscience" to investigate the dynamics of functional brain networks in 344 healthy subjects during a working-memory challenge (the "n-back" task). In contrast to a control condition, in which dynamic changes in cortical networks were spread evenly across systems, the effortful working-memory condition was characterized by a reconfiguration of frontoparietal and frontotemporal networks. This reconfiguration, which characterizes "network flexibility," employs transient and heterogeneous connectivity between frontal systems, which we refer to as "integration." Frontal integration predicted neuropsychological measures requiring working memory and executive cognition, suggesting that dynamic network reconfiguration between frontal systems supports those functions. Our results characterize dynamic reconfiguration of large-scale distributed neural circuits during executive cognition in humans and have implications for understanding impaired cognitive function in disorders affecting connectivity, such as schizophrenia or dementia.

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          Most cited references 58

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          The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex "Frontal Lobe" tasks: a latent variable analysis.

          This individual differences study examined the separability of three often postulated executive functions-mental set shifting ("Shifting"), information updating and monitoring ("Updating"), and inhibition of prepotent responses ("Inhibition")-and their roles in complex "frontal lobe" or "executive" tasks. One hundred thirty-seven college students performed a set of relatively simple experimental tasks that are considered to predominantly tap each target executive function as well as a set of frequently used executive tasks: the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Tower of Hanoi (TOH), random number generation (RNG), operation span, and dual tasking. Confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the three target executive functions are moderately correlated with one another, but are clearly separable. Moreover, structural equation modeling suggested that the three functions contribute differentially to performance on complex executive tasks. Specifically, WCST performance was related most strongly to Shifting, TOH to Inhibition, RNG to Inhibition and Updating, and operation span to Updating. Dual task performance was not related to any of the three target functions. These results suggest that it is important to recognize both the unity and diversity of executive functions and that latent variable analysis is a useful approach to studying the organization and roles of executive functions. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.
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            An integrative theory of prefrontal cortex function.

            The prefrontal cortex has long been suspected to play an important role in cognitive control, in the ability to orchestrate thought and action in accordance with internal goals. Its neural basis, however, has remained a mystery. Here, we propose that cognitive control stems from the active maintenance of patterns of activity in the prefrontal cortex that represent goals and the means to achieve them. They provide bias signals to other brain structures whose net effect is to guide the flow of activity along neural pathways that establish the proper mappings between inputs, internal states, and outputs needed to perform a given task. We review neurophysiological, neurobiological, neuroimaging, and computational studies that support this theory and discuss its implications as well as further issues to be addressed
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              The organization of the human cerebral cortex estimated by intrinsic functional connectivity.

              Information processing in the cerebral cortex involves interactions among distributed areas. Anatomical connectivity suggests that certain areas form local hierarchical relations such as within the visual system. Other connectivity patterns, particularly among association areas, suggest the presence of large-scale circuits without clear hierarchical relations. In this study the organization of networks in the human cerebrum was explored using resting-state functional connectivity MRI. Data from 1,000 subjects were registered using surface-based alignment. A clustering approach was employed to identify and replicate networks of functionally coupled regions across the cerebral cortex. The results revealed local networks confined to sensory and motor cortices as well as distributed networks of association regions. Within the sensory and motor cortices, functional connectivity followed topographic representations across adjacent areas. In association cortex, the connectivity patterns often showed abrupt transitions between network boundaries. Focused analyses were performed to better understand properties of network connectivity. A canonical sensory-motor pathway involving primary visual area, putative middle temporal area complex (MT+), lateral intraparietal area, and frontal eye field was analyzed to explore how interactions might arise within and between networks. Results showed that adjacent regions of the MT+ complex demonstrate differential connectivity consistent with a hierarchical pathway that spans networks. The functional connectivity of parietal and prefrontal association cortices was next explored. Distinct connectivity profiles of neighboring regions suggest they participate in distributed networks that, while showing evidence for interactions, are embedded within largely parallel, interdigitated circuits. We conclude by discussing the organization of these large-scale cerebral networks in relation to monkey anatomy and their potential evolutionary expansion in humans to support cognition.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc Natl Acad Sci USA
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                September 15 2015
                September 15 2015
                September 15 2015
                August 31 2015
                : 112
                : 37
                : 11678-11683
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1422487112
                26324898
                © 2015

                Free to read

                http://www.pnas.org/site/misc/userlicense.xhtml

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