Recent findings suggest the existence of a frontoparietal control system consisting of flexible hubs that regulate distributed systems (e.g., visual, limbic, motor) according to current task goals. A growing number of studies are reporting alterations of this control system across a striking range of mental diseases. We suggest this may reflect a critical role for the control system in promoting and maintaining mental health. Specifically, we propose that this system implements feedback control to regulate symptoms as they arise (e.g., excessive anxiety reduced via regulation of amygdala), such that an intact control system is protective against a variety of mental illnesses. Consistent with this possibility, recent results indicate that several major mental illnesses involve altered brain-wide connectivity of the control system, likely altering its ability to regulate symptoms. These results suggest that this "immune system of the mind" may be an especially important target for future basic and clinical research.
Keywords: brain networks; cognitive control; executive functions; prefrontal cortex; psychiatric disease.
© The Author(s) 2014.