Domain general and domain preferential brain regions associated with different types of task switching: a meta-analysis

Hum Brain Mapp. 2012 Jan;33(1):130-42. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21199. Epub 2011 Mar 9.


One of our highest evolved functions as human beings is our capacity to switch between multiple tasks effectively. A body of research has identified a distributed frontoparietal network of brain regions which contribute to task switching. However, relatively less is known about whether some brain regions may contribute to switching in a domain-general manner while others may be more preferential for different kinds of switching. To explore this issue, we conducted three meta-analyses focusing on different types of task switching frequently used in the literature (perceptual, response, and context switching), and created a conjunction map of these distinct switch types. A total of 36 switching studies with 562 activation coordinates were analyzed using the activation likelihood estimation method. Common areas associated with switching across switch type included the inferior frontal junction and posterior parietal cortex. In contrast, domain-preferential activation was observed for perceptual switching in the dorsal portion of the premotor cortex and for context switching in frontopolar cortex. Our results suggest that some regions within the frontoparietal network contribute to domain-general switching processes while others contribute to more domain-preferential processes, according to the type of task switch performed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology