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Front Syst Neurosci. 2011 Jan 25;5:3. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2011.00003. eCollection 2011.

Executive functions and prefrontal cortex: a matter of persistence?

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  • 1Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, Hammersmith Hospital London, UK.


Executive function is thought to originates from the dynamics of frontal cortical networks. We examined the dynamic properties of the blood oxygen level dependent time-series measured with functional MRI (fMRI) within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) to test the hypothesis that temporally persistent neural activity underlies performance in three tasks of executive function. A numerical estimate of signal persistence, the Hurst exponent, postulated to represent the coherent firing of cortical networks, was determined and correlated with task performance. Increasing persistence in the lateral PFC was shown to correlate with improved performance during an n-back task. Conversely, we observed a correlation between persistence and increasing commission error - indicating a failure to inhibit a prepotent response - during a Go/No-Go task. We propose that persistence within the PFC reflects dynamic network formation and these findings underline the importance of frequency analysis of fMRI time-series in the study of executive functions.


BOLD; Hurst exponent; executive function; functional MRI; networks; persistence; prefrontal cortex

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