Cognitive Flexibility: A Default Network and Basal Ganglia Connectivity Perspective

Brain Connect. 2016 Apr;6(3):201-7. doi: 10.1089/brain.2015.0388. Epub 2016 Feb 16.


The intra/extradimensional set-shifting task (IED) provides a reliable assessment of cognitive flexibility, the shifting of attention to select behaviorally relevant stimuli in a given context. Impairments in this domain were previously reported in patients with altered neurotransmitter systems such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease. Consequently, corticostriatal connections were implicated in the mediation of this function. In addition, parts of the default mode network (DMN), namely the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate/precuneus cortices, are also being progressively described in association with set-shifting paradigms. Nevertheless, a definitive link between cognitive flexibility and DMN connectivity remains to be established. To this end, we related resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)-based functional connectivity of DMN with IED task performance in a healthy population, measured outside the scanner. The results demonstrated that greater posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus (DMN) connectivity with the ventromedial striatopallidum at rest correlated with fewer total adjusted errors on the IED task. This finding points to a relationship between DMN and basal ganglia connectivity for cognitive flexibility, further highlighting this network's potential role in adaptive human cognition.

Keywords: basal ganglia; cognitive flexibility; default mode network; functional connectivity; intra/extradimensional set-shifting; striatum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology