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Unlike brain regions that respond selectively to specific kinds of information content, a number of frontal and parietal regions are thought to be domain- and process-general: that is, active during a wide variety of demanding cognitive tasks. However, most previous evidence for this functional generality in humans comes from methods that overestimate activation overlap across tasks. Here we present functional MRI evidence from single-subject analyses for broad functional generality of a specific set of brain regions: the same sets of voxels are engaged across tasks ranging from arithmetic to storing information in working memory, to inhibiting irrelevant information. These regions have a specific topography, often lying directly adjacent to domain-specific regions. Thus, in addition to domain-specific brain regions tailored to solve particular problems of longstanding importance to our species, the human brain also contains a set of functionally general regions that plausibly endow us with the cognitive flexibility necessary to solve novel problems.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





16616 - 16621


Multiple-demand system, cognitive control, Adult, Brain Mapping, Cognition, Female, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Massachusetts, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Parietal Lobe