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Trends Cogn Sci. 2008 May;12(5):193-200. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.02.004. Epub 2008 Apr 9.

Cognitive control, hierarchy, and the rostro-caudal organization of the frontal lobes.

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Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University, Box 1978, Providence, RI 02912-1978, USA.


Cognitive control supports flexible behavior by selecting actions that are consistent with our goals and appropriate for our environment. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) has an established role in cognitive control, and research on the functional organization of PFC promises to contribute to our understanding of the architecture of control. A recently popular hypothesis is that the rostro-caudal axis of PFC supports a control hierarchy whereby posterior-to-anterior PFC mediates progressively abstract, higher-order control. This review discusses evidence for a rostro-caudal gradient of function in PFC and the theories proposed to account for these results, including domain generality in working memory, relational complexity, the temporal organization of behavior and abstract representational hierarchy. Distinctions among these frameworks are considered as a basis for future research.

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