Cortical representations of cognitive control and working memory are dependent yet non-interacting

Ian H. Harding, Ben J. Harrison, Michael Breakspear, Christos Pantelis, Murat Yucel

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive control (CC) and working memory (WM) are concurrently necessary for adaptive human behavior. These processes are thought to rely on similar neural mechanisms, yet little is known of the potential competitive or cooperative brain dynamics that support their concurrent engagement during complex behavioral tasks. Here, statistical interactions (synergy/competition) and dependencies (correlations) in brain function related to CC and WM were measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Twenty-five healthy adults performed a novel factorial cognitive paradigm, in which a 2-back verbal WM task was combined with the multisource interference task. Overlapping main effects in neural activation were evident in all regions of the ?cognitive control network,? together with robust behavioral main effects. However, no significant behavioral or cortical interaction effects were apparent. Conversely, robust positive correlations between the 2 main effects were evident within many components of the network. The results offer robust evidence that the neural representations of WM and CC are statistically dependent, but do not compete. These findings support the notion that CC and WM demands may be dynamically and flexibly encoded within a common brain network to support the efficient production of adaptive behavior across diverse task contexts
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-565
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • cognitive control
  • dual task
  • fMRI
  • frontoparietal
  • Working memory

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