Parsing the Roles of the Frontal Lobes and Basal Ganglia in Task Control Using Multivoxel Pattern Analysis

J Cogn Neurosci. 2017 Aug;29(8):1390-1401. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01130. Epub 2017 Apr 7.


Cognitive control has traditionally been associated with pFC based on observations of deficits in patients with frontal lesions. However, evidence from patients with Parkinson disease indicates that subcortical regions also contribute to control under certain conditions. We scanned 17 healthy volunteers while they performed a task-switching paradigm that previously dissociated performance deficits arising from frontal lesions in comparison with Parkinson disease, as a function of the abstraction of the rules that are switched. From a multivoxel pattern analysis by Gaussian Process Classification, we then estimated the forward (generative) model to infer regional patterns of activity that predict Switch/Repeat behavior between rule conditions. At 1000 permutations, Switch/Repeat classification accuracy for concrete rules was significant in the BG, but at chance in the frontal lobe. The inverse pattern was obtained for abstract rules, whereby the conditions were successfully discriminated in the frontal lobe but not in the BG. This double dissociation highlights the difference between cortical and subcortical contributions to cognitive control and demonstrates the utility of multivariate approaches in investigations of functions that rely on distributed and overlapping neural substrates.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Basal Ganglia / diagnostic imaging
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen