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Cereb Cortex. 2016 May;26(5):2140-53. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv046. Epub 2015 Mar 15.

Causal Interactions Within a Frontal-Cingulate-Parietal Network During Cognitive Control: Convergent Evidence from a Multisite-Multitask Investigation.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
Department of Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences Stanford Neuroscience Institute, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Cognitive control plays an important role in goal-directed behavior, but dynamic brain mechanisms underlying it are poorly understood. Here, using multisite fMRI data from over 100 participants, we investigate causal interactions in three cognitive control tasks within a core Frontal-Cingulate-Parietal network. We found significant causal influences from anterior insula (AI) to dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in all three tasks. The AI exhibited greater net causal outflow than any other node in the network. Importantly, a similar pattern of causal interactions was uncovered by two different computational methods for causal analysis. Furthermore, the strength of causal interaction from AI to dACC was greater on high, compared with low, cognitive control trials and was significantly correlated with individual differences in cognitive control abilities. These results emphasize the importance of the AI in cognitive control and highlight its role as a causal hub in the Frontal-Cingulate-Parietal network. Our results further suggest that causal signaling between the AI and dACC plays a fundamental role in implementing cognitive control and are consistent with a two-stage cognitive control model in which the AI first detects events requiring greater access to cognitive control resources and then signals the dACC to execute load-specific cognitive control processes.


brain network; connectivity; fMRI; human; temporal dependence

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