Adaptive coding of task-relevant information in human frontoparietal cortex.
Woolgar A., Hampshire A., Thompson R., Duncan J.
Frontoparietal cortex is thought to be essential for flexible behavior, but the mechanism for control remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate a potentially critical property of this cortex: its dynamic configuration for coding of task-critical information. Using multivoxel pattern analysis of human functional imaging data, we demonstrate an adaptive change in the patterns of activation coding task-relevant stimulus distinctions. When task demands made perceptual information more difficult to discriminate, frontoparietal regions showed increased coding of this information. Visual cortices showed the opposite result: a weaker representation of perceptual information in line with the physical change in the stimulus. On a longer timescale, a rebalancing of coding was also seen after practice, with a diminished representation of task rules as they became familiar. The results suggest a flexible neural system, exerting cognitive control in a wide range of tasks by adaptively representing the task features most challenging for successful goal-directed behavior.