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A common or multiple-demand (MD) pattern of frontal and parietal activity is associated with diverse cognitive demands, and with standard tests of fluid intelligence. In intelligent behaviour, goals are achieved by assembling a series of sub-tasks, creating structured mental programs. Single cell and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data indicate a key role for MD cortex in defining and controlling the parts of such programs, with focus on the specific content of a current cognitive operation, rapid reorganization as mental focus is changed, and robust separation of successive task steps. Resembling the structured problem-solving of symbolic artificial intelligence, the mental programs of MD cortex appear central to intelligent thought and action.

Original publication




Journal article


Trends Cogn Sci

Publication Date





172 - 179


Animals, Brain, Cognition, Executive Function, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Intelligence, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Neuropsychological Tests, Parietal Lobe, Primates, Problem Solving, Psychomotor Performance, User-Computer Interface