New publication: Cognitive Effort Modulates Connectivity between Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Task-Relevant Cortical Areas

Abstract

Investment of cognitive effort is required in everyday life and has received ample attention in recent neurocognitive frameworks. The neural mechanism of effort investment is thought to be structured hierarchically, with dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) at the highest level, recruiting task-specific upstream areas. In the current fMRI study, we tested whether dACC is generally active when effort demand is high across tasks with different stimuli, and whether connectivity between dACC and task-specific areas is increased depending on the task requirements and effort level at hand. For that purpose, a perceptual detection task was administered that required male and female human participants to detect either a face or a house in a noisy image. Effort demand was manipulated by adding little (low effort) or much (high effort) noise to the images. Results showed a network of dACC, anterior insula (AI), and intraparietal sulcus (IPS) to be more active when effort demand was high, independent of the performed task (face or house detection). Importantly, effort demand modulated functional connectivity between dACC and face-responsive or house-responsive perceptual areas, depending on the task at hand. This shows that dACC, AI, and IPS constitute a general effort-responsive network and suggests that the neural implementation of cognitive effort involves dACC-initiated sensitization of task-relevant areas.

Aben, B., Buc Calderon, C., Van den Bussche, E., & Verguts, T. (2020). Cognitive Effort Modulates Connectivity between Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Task-Relevant Cortical Areas. Journal Of Neuroscience, 40, 3838-3848. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2948-19.2020

New publication: Context-dependent modulation of cognitive control involves different temporal profiles of fronto-parietal activity

Abstract:
To efficiently deal with quickly changing task demands, we often need to organize our behaviour on different time scales. For example, to ignore irrelevant and select relevant information, cognitive control might be applied in reactive (short time scale) or proactive (long time scale) mode. These two control modes play a pivotal role in cognitive-neuroscientific theorizing but the temporal dissociation of the underlying neural mechanisms is not well established empirically. In this fMRI study, a cognitive control task was administered in contexts with mainly congruent (MC) and mainly incongruent (MI) trials to induce reactive and proactive control, respectively. Based on behavioural profiles, we expected cognitive control in the MC context to be characterized by transient activity (measured on-trial) in task-relevant areas. In the MI context, cognitive control was expected to be reflected in sustained activity (measured in the intertrial interval) in similar or different areas. Results show that in the MC context, on-trial transient activity (incongruent – congruent trials) was increased in fronto-parietal areas, compared to the MI context. These areas included dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and intraparietal sulcus (IPS). In the MI context, sustained activity in similar fronto-parietal areas during the intertrial interval was increased, compared to the MC context. These results illuminate how context-dependent reactive and proactive control subtend the same brain areas but operate on different time scales.

The results of this study, conducted by Bart Aben, Cristian Buc Calderon, Laurens Van de Cruyssen, Doerte Picksack, Eva Van den Bussche and Tom Verguts are published in NeuroImage.

Aben, B., Buc Calderon, C., Van der Cruyssen, L., Picksak, D., Van den Bussche, E., & Verguts, T. (2019). Context-dependent modulation of cognitive control involves different temporal profiles of fronto-parietal activity. NeuroImage, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.02.004.

The article is available here.