Dynamic cooperation and competition between brain systems during cognitive control

Trends Cogn Sci. 2013 Oct;17(10):493-501. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.08.006. Epub 2013 Sep 8.


The human brain is characterized by a remarkable ability to adapt its information processing based on current goals. This ability, which is encompassed by the psychological construct of cognitive control, involves activity throughout large-scale, specialized brain systems that support segregated functions at rest and during active task performance. Based on recent research, we propose an account in which control functions rely on transitory changes in patterns of cooperation and competition between neural systems. This account challenges current conceptualizations of control as relying on segregated or antagonistic activity of specialized brain systems. Accordingly, we argue that the study of transitory task-based interactions between brain systems is critical to understanding the flexibility of normal cognitive control and its disruption in pathological conditions.

Keywords: cognition; cognitive control; connectivity; connectomics; executive functions; network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology