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The Neural Representation of Voluntary Task-Set Selection in Dynamic Environments

Wisniewski, David and Reverberi, Carlo and Tusche, Anita and Haynes, John-Dylan (2015) The Neural Representation of Voluntary Task-Set Selection in Dynamic Environments. Cerebral Cortex, 25 (12). pp. 4715-4726. ISSN 1047-3211.

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When choosing actions, humans have to balance carefully between different task demands. On the one hand, they should perform tasks repeatedly to avoid frequent and effortful switching between different tasks. On the other hand, subjects have to retain their flexibility to adapt to changes in external task demands such as switching away from an increasingly difficult task. Here, we developed a difficulty-based choice task to investigate how subjects voluntarily select task-sets in predictably changing environments. Subjects were free to choose 1 of the 3 task-sets on a trial-by-trial basis, while the task difficulty changed dynamically over time. Subjects self-sequenced their behavior in this environment while we measured brain responses with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Using multivariate decoding, we found that task choices were encoded in the medial prefrontal cortex (dorso-medial prefrontal cortex, dmPFC, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, dACC). The same regions were found to encode task difficulty, a major factor influencing choices. Importantly, the present paradigm allowed us to disentangle the neural code for task choices and task difficulty, ensuring that activation patterns in dmPFC/dACC independently encode these 2 factors. This finding provides new evidence for the importance of the dmPFC/dACC for task-selection and motivational functions in highly dynamic environments.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Data
Tusche, Anita0000-0003-4180-8447
Additional Information:© 2014 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press. First published online: July 17, 2014. David Wisniewski and Carlo Reverberi contributed equally to this work. This work was supported by the Bernstein Computational Neuroscience Program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant reference 01GQ1001C), the German Research Foundation (Exc 257 NeuroCure, DFG Grant KFO247, and DFG Grant SFB 940), and the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. Conflict of Interest: None declared.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Bernstein Computational Neuroscience ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)01GQ1001C
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)Exc 257 NeuroCure
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)KFO247
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)SFB 940
Berlin School of Mind and BrainUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:fMRI, multivariate decoding, prefrontal cortex, task difficulty,task-set
Issue or Number:12
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140728-142510334
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Official Citation:David Wisniewski, Carlo Reverberi, Anita Tusche, and John-Dylan Haynes The Neural Representation of Voluntary Task-Set Selection in Dynamic Environments Cereb. Cortex (2015) 25 (12): 4715-4726 first published online July 17, 2014 doi:10.1093/cercor/bhu155
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:47533
Deposited By: Joanne McCole
Deposited On:29 Jul 2014 18:30
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

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