In our TICS Review in 2004, we proposed that a sector of the right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC) in humans is critical for inhibiting response tendencies. Here we survey new evidence, discuss ongoing controversies, and provide an updated theory. We propose that the rIFC (along with one or more fronto-basal-ganglia networks) is best characterized as a brake. This brake can be turned on in different modes (totally, to outright suppress a response; or partially, to pause), and in different contexts (externally, by stop or salient signals; or internally, by goals). We affirm inhibition as a central component of executive control that relies upon the rIFC and associated networks, and explain why rIFC disruption could generally underpin response control disorders.
Highlights • The right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC) implements a brake over response tendencies. • This brake can be turned on totally or partially by external signals. • It can also be turned on by goals/intentions. • Damage to this region and/or its network contributes to impulse control disorders.
Alpha-band oscillations are the dominant oscillations in the human brain and recent evidence suggests that they have an inhibitory function. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that alpha-band oscillations also play an active role in information processing. In this article, I suggest that alpha-band oscillations have two roles (inhibition and timing) that are closely linked to two fundamental functions of attention (suppression and selection), which enable controlled knowledge access and semantic orientation (the ability to be consciously oriented in time, space, and context). As such, alpha-band oscillations reflect one of the most basic cognitive processes and can also be shown to play a key role in the coalescence of brain activity in different frequencies.
The science of large-scale brain networks offers a powerful paradigm for investigating cognitive and affective dysfunction in psychiatric and neurological disorders. This review examines recent conceptual and methodological developments which are contributing to a paradigm shift in the study of psychopathology. I summarize methods for characterizing aberrant brain networks and demonstrate how network analysis provides novel insights into dysfunctional brain architecture. Deficits in access, engagement and disengagement of large-scale neurocognitive networks are shown to play a prominent role in several disorders including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, dementia and autism. Synthesizing recent research, I propose a triple network model of aberrant saliency mapping and cognitive dysfunction in psychopathology, emphasizing the surprising parallels that are beginning to emerge across psychiatric and neurological disorders.
Highlights • A new view of emotion as active inference on the causes of interoceptive signals. • Extension of appraisal emotion theories to a contemporary inferential framework. • A unified predictive model of emotion and experience of body ownership. • Interpretation of neuropsychiatric conditions as disordered interoceptive inference. • How predictive integration of interoceptive and exteroceptive signals affects self.
Negative emotional stimuli activate a broad network of brain regions, including the medial prefrontal (mPFC) and anterior cingulate (ACC) cortices. An early influential view dichotomized these regions into dorsal–caudal cognitive and ventral–rostral affective subdivisions. In this review, we examine a wealth of recent research on negative emotions in animals and humans, using the example of fear or anxiety, and conclude that, contrary to the traditional dichotomy, both subdivisions make key contributions to emotional processing. Specifically, dorsal–caudal regions of the ACC and mPFC are involved in appraisal and expression of negative emotion, whereas ventral–rostral portions of the ACC and mPFC have a regulatory role with respect to limbic regions involved in generating emotional responses. Moreover, this new framework is broadly consistent with emerging data on other negative and positive emotions.
A core component of cognitive control – the ability to regulate thoughts and actions in accordance with internally represented behavioral goals – might be its intrinsic variability. In this article, I describe the dual mechanisms of control (DMC) framework, which postulates that this variability might arise from qualitative distinctions in temporal dynamics between proactive and reactive modes of control. Proactive control reflects the sustained and anticipatory maintenance of goal-relevant information within lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) to enable optimal cognitive performance, whereas reactive control reflects transient stimulus-driven goal reactivation that recruits lateral PFC (plus a wider brain network) based on interference demands or episodic associations. I summarize recent research that demonstrates how the DMC framework provides a coherent explanation of three sources of cognitive control variation – intra-individual, inter-individual and between-groups – in terms of proactive versus reactive control biases.
Building on animal research, the past decade has witnessed a surge of interest in the effects of oxytocin on social cognition and prosocial behavior in humans. This work has generated considerable excitement about identifying the neurochemical underpinnings of sociality in humans, and discovering compounds to treat social functioning deficits. Inspection of the literature, however, reveals that the effects of oxytocin in the social domain are often weak and/or inconsistent. We propose that this literature can be informed by an interactionist approach in which the effects of oxytocin are constrained by features of situations and/or individuals. We show how this approach can improve understanding of extant research, suggest novel mechanisms through which oxytocin might operate, and refine predictions about oxytocin pharmacotherapy.
Self-regulation is a core aspect of adaptive human behavior that has been studied, largely in parallel, through the lenses of social and personality psychology as well as cognitive psychology. Here, we argue for more communication between these disciplines and highlight recent research that speaks to their connection. We outline how basic facets of executive functioning (working memory operations, behavioral inhibition, and task-switching) may subserve successful self-regulation. We also argue that temporary reductions in executive functions underlie many of the situational risk factors identified in the social psychological research on self-regulation and review recent evidence that the training of executive functions holds significant potential for improving poor self-regulation in problem populations.
The idea that social motivation deficits play a central role in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has recently gained increased interest. This constitutes a shift in autism research, which has traditionally focused more intensely on cognitive impairments, such as theory-of-mind deficits or executive dysfunction, and has granted comparatively less attention to motivational factors. This review delineates the concept of social motivation and capitalizes on recent findings in several research areas to provide an integrated account of social motivation at the behavioral, biological and evolutionary levels. We conclude that ASD can be construed as an extreme case of diminished social motivation and, as such, provides a powerful model to understand humans’ intrinsic drive to seek acceptance and avoid rejection.
Semantic memory includes all acquired knowledge about the world and is the basis for nearly all human activity, yet its neurobiological foundation is only now becoming clear. Recent neuroimaging studies demonstrate two striking results: the participation of modality-specific sensory, motor, and emotion systems in language comprehension, and the existence of large brain regions that participate in comprehension tasks but are not modality-specific. These latter regions, which include the inferior parietal lobe and much of the temporal lobe, lie at convergences of multiple perceptual processing streams. These convergences enable increasingly abstract, supramodal representations of perceptual experience that support a variety of conceptual functions including object recognition, social cognition, language, and the remarkable human capacity to remember the past and imagine the future.
Prominent models of attentional control assert a dichotomy between top-down and bottom-up control, with the former determined by current selection goals and the latter determined by physical salience. This theoretical dichotomy, however, fails to explain a growing number of cases in which neither current goals nor physical salience can account for strong selection biases. For example, equally salient stimuli associated with reward can capture attention, even when this contradicts current selection goals. Thus, although ‘top-down’ sources of bias are sometimes defined as those that are not due to physical salience, this conception conflates distinct – and sometimes contradictory – sources of selection bias. We describe an alternative framework, in which past selection history is integrated with current goals and physical salience to shape an integrated priority map.
Highlights • Physical activity is beneficial for the brain. • Mechanistic pathways have been studied in animals and humans. • Growth factors play an important role in mediating the positive effects of exercise. • Evidence is strong for benefits on the structure and function of the hippocampus. • Physical activity benefits all ages and many neurodegenerative diseases.
Highlights • Visual working memory capacity can be assessed reliably with very simple tasks. • The capacity for simple visual features is highly correlated with cognitive ability. • Capacity varies substantially across individuals and groups. • Researchers debate whether capacity reflects discrete slots or a flexible resource. • Capacity limits can be understood in terms of recurrent neural networks.
Highlights • Spontaneous fluctuations in brain activity reflect functional brain networks. • We review rfMRI for mapping the functional connectome. • We review methods for functional connectomics network analysis. • We describe the WU–Minn Human Connectome Project. • We present exciting new analyses using the latest-released HCP data.
Selective attention, the ability to focus our cognitive resources on information relevant to our goals, influences working memory (WM) performance. Indeed, attention and working memory are increasingly viewed as overlapping constructs. Here, we review recent evidence from human neurophysiological studies demonstrating that top-down modulation serves as a common neural mechanism underlying these two cognitive operations. The core features include activity modulation in stimulus-selective sensory cortices with concurrent engagement of prefrontal and parietal control regions that function as sources of top-down signals. Notably, top-down modulation is engaged during both stimulus-present and stimulus-absent stages of WM tasks; that is, expectation of an ensuing stimulus to be remembered, selection and encoding of stimuli, maintenance of relevant information in mind and memory retrieval.
Investigation of the hippocampus has historically focused on computations within the trisynaptic circuit. However, discovery of important anatomical and functional variability along its long axis has inspired recent proposals of long-axis functional specialization in both the animal and human literatures. Here, we review and evaluate these proposals. We suggest that various long-axis specializations arise out of differences between the anterior (aHPC) and posterior hippocampus (pHPC) in large-scale network connectivity, the organization of entorhinal grid cells, and subfield compositions that bias the aHPC and pHPC towards pattern completion and separation, respectively. The latter two differences give rise to a property, reflected in the expression of multiple other functional specializations, of coarse, global representations in anterior hippocampus and fine-grained, local representations in posterior hippocampus.
An understanding of how the human brain produces cognition ultimately depends on knowledge of large-scale brain organization. Although it has long been assumed that cognitive functions are attributable to the isolated operations of single brain areas, we demonstrate that the weight of evidence has now shifted in support of the view that cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks. We review current research on structural and functional brain organization, and argue that the emerging science of large-scale brain networks provides a coherent framework for understanding of cognition. Critically, this framework allows a principled exploration of how cognitive functions emerge from, and are constrained by, core structural and functional networks of the brain.
The ability to resist the urge to eat requires the proper functioning of neuronal circuits involved in top-down control to oppose the conditioned responses that predict reward from eating the food and the desire to eat the food. Imaging studies show that obese subjects might have impairments in dopaminergic pathways that regulate neuronal systems associated with reward sensitivity, conditioning and control. It is known that the neuropeptides that regulate energy balance (homeostatic processes) through the hypothalamus also modulate the activity of dopamine cells and their projections into regions involved in the rewarding processes underlying food intake. It is postulated that this could also be a mechanism by which overeating and the resultant resistance to homoeostatic signals impairs the function of circuits involved in reward sensitivity, conditioning and cognitive control.
Recent studies suggest that cross-frequency coupling (CFC) might play a functional role in neuronal computation, communication and learning. In particular, the strength of phase-amplitude CFC differs across brain areas in a task-relevant manner, changes quickly in response to sensory, motor and cognitive events, and correlates with performance in learning tasks. Importantly, whereas high-frequency brain activity reflects local domains of cortical processing, low-frequency brain rhythms are dynamically entrained across distributed brain regions by both external sensory input and internal cognitive events. CFC might thus serve as a mechanism to transfer information from large-scale brain networks operating at behavioral timescales to the fast, local cortical processing required for effective computation and synaptic modification, thus integrating functional systems across multiple spatiotemporal scales.