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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.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





14592 - 14599


Adaptation, Physiological, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Female, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Oxygen, Photic Stimulation, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Young Adult