According to contemporary views, the lateral frontal cortex is organized along a rostro-caudal functional axis with increasingly complex cognitive/behavioral control implemented rostrally, and increasingly detailed motor control implemented caudally. Whether the medial frontal cortex follows the same organization remains to be elucidated. To address this issue, the functional connectivity of the 3 cingulate motor areas (CMAs) in the human brain with the lateral frontal cortex was investigated. First, the CMAs and their representations of hand, tongue, and eye movements were mapped via task-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Second, using resting-state fMRI, their functional connectivity with lateral prefrontal and lateral motor cortical regions of interest (ROIs) were examined. Importantly, the above analyses were conducted at the single-subject level to account for variability in individual cingulate morphology. The results demonstrated a rostro-caudal functional organization of the CMAs in the human brain that parallels that in the lateral frontal cortex: the rostral CMA has stronger functional connectivity with prefrontal regions and weaker connectivity with motor regions; conversely, the more caudal CMAs have weaker prefrontal and stronger motor connectivity. Connectivity patterns of the hand, tongue and eye representations within the CMAs are consistent with that of their parent CMAs. The parallel rostral-to-caudal functional organization observed in the medial and lateral frontal cortex could likely contribute to different hierarchies of cognitive-motor control.
Keywords: cingulate motor areas; frontal cortex; functional gradient; humans; resting-state fMRI; task-related fMRI.