Control-related systems in the human brain

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2013 Apr;23(2):223-8. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2012.12.009. Epub 2013 Jan 21.


A fundamental question in cognitive neuroscience is how the human brain self-organizes to perform tasks. Multiple accounts of this self-organization are currently influential and in this article we survey one of these accounts. We begin by introducing a psychological model of task control and several neuroimaging signals it predicts. We then discuss where such signals are found across tasks with emphasis on brain regions where multiple control signals are present. We then present results derived from spontaneous task-free functional connectivity between control-related regions that dovetail with distinctions made by control signals present in these regions, leading to a proposal that there are at least two task control systems in the brain. This prompts consideration of whether and how such control systems distinguish themselves from other brain regions in a whole-brain context. We present evidence from whole-brain networks that such distinctions do occur and that control systems comprise some of the basic system-level organizational elements of the human brain. We close with observations from the whole-brain networks that may suggest parsimony between multiple accounts of cognitive control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*