CCN meeting | Alexandra Woolgar (University of Cambridge, UK)

23-01-2020 from 13:00 to 14:00
Henri Dunantlaan 2, room 4.2
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Brain mechanisms of flexible cognitive control

At first glance, two great hallmarks of cognitive control appear to be in opposition. First, cognitive control must be selective: in a capacity limited system, processing of task-relevant information must be prioritised above the rest. Second, control must be flexible. After selectively attending to one set of information in one moment, we must be able to shift to a new set of information in the next, as we move through our task and mental focus changes. In this talk I will advance the proposal that these features are two sides of the same coin, arising from a single neural system that drives selective, yet flexible, processing of task relevant information. In particular, data from human functional imaging points to a specific system of frontal and parietal brain regions that flexibly emphasise different information according to the participant's task. The next challenge for the field, however, is to understand how (and whether!) information coding in these regions gives rise to meaningful goal-directed behaviour. Key questions include: Is information that we decode in neuroimaging really the same code used by the brain? How is information exchanged and transformed between brain regions? And which of these effects are causal in determining cognition and behaviour? I will present recent work aiming to tackle these question using fMRI, MEG, and concurrent TMS-fMRI approaches.