Anterior prefrontal cortex: A key to the human brain’s ability to rapidly learn new tasks

Humans have come to dominate the world largely due to our intelligence relative to other species. Where does this tremendous cognitive flexibility come from? Many have considered prefrontal cortex as the origin of this boost in intelligence, yet it has remained unclear how this chunk of brain tissue could drive intelligent behavior. In a recently published… Continue reading Anterior prefrontal cortex: A key to the human brain’s ability to rapidly learn new tasks

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Neurevolution relaunch

It’s hard to believe we started this blog over eight years ago – all the way back when we were grad students. What a long way we’ve come. Patryk is now Director of R&D at Brain Corporation, while Michael is an assistant professor at Rutgers University. Today we are relaunching Neurevolution, with a new design and… Continue reading Neurevolution relaunch

Frontoparietal cortex: The immune system of the mind

The frontoparietal control system is to the mind what the immune system is to the body. It may oversimplify the situation, but we’re finding it’s a useful metaphor nonetheless. Indeed, we’ve just published a new theory paper explaining that there is already an avalanche of evidence supporting this metaphor. Even though much work is left… Continue reading Frontoparietal cortex: The immune system of the mind

The brain’s network switching stations for adaptive behavior

I’m excited to announce that my latest scientific publication – “Multi-task connectivity reveals flexible hubs for adaptive task control” – was just published in Nature Neuroscience. The paper reports on a project I (along with my co-authors) have been working on for over a year. The goal was to use network science to better understand how… Continue reading The brain’s network switching stations for adaptive behavior

Having more global brain connectivity with some regions enhances intelligence

A new study – titled “Global Connectivity of Prefrontal Cortex Predicts Cognitive Control and Intelligence” – was published just last week. In it, my co-authors and I describe our research showing that connectivity with a particular part of the prefrontal cortex can predict how intelligent someone is. We measured intelligence using “fluid intelligence” tests, which measure… Continue reading Having more global brain connectivity with some regions enhances intelligence

The evolutionary importance of rapid instructed task learning (RITL)

We are rarely alone when learning something for the first time. We are social creatures, and whether it’s a new technology or an ancient tradition, we typically benefit from instruction when learning new tasks. This form of learning–in which a task is rapidly (within seconds) learned from instruction–can be referred to as rapid instructed task… Continue reading The evolutionary importance of rapid instructed task learning (RITL)

Finding the most important brain regions

When you type a search into Google it figures out the most important websites based in part on how many links each has from other websites. Taking up precious website space with a link is costly, making each additional link to a page a good indicator of importance. We thought the same logic might apply… Continue reading Finding the most important brain regions

Cingulate Cortex and the Evolution of Human Uniqueness

Figuring out how the brain decides between two options is difficult. This is especially true for the human brain, whose activity is typically accessible only via the small and occasionally distorted window provided by new imaging technologies (such as functional MRI (fMRI)). In contrast, it is typically more accurate to observe monkey brains since the… Continue reading Cingulate Cortex and the Evolution of Human Uniqueness

A Meta-Meta-Analysis of Brain Functions

Thousands of brain imaging studies are published each year. A subset of these studies are replications, or slight variations, of previous studies. Attempting to come to a solid conclusion based on the complex brain activity patterns reported by all these replications can be daunting. Meta-analysis is one tool that has been used to make sense… Continue reading A Meta-Meta-Analysis of Brain Functions

Keeping Up: Tips for Managing Science Reading

Keeping up with new findings is constantly becoming more difficult with the rate of publication in just cognitive neuroscience increasing by over 200 per year, with an overall increase of 2333 over the last ten years  (see figure below). I will briefly describe some methods I’ve recently discovered to help deal with this onslaught of… Continue reading Keeping Up: Tips for Managing Science Reading

Grand Challenges of Neuroscience: Day 6

Topic 6: Causal Understanding Causal understanding is an important part of human cognition.  How do we understand that a particular event or force has caused another event?  How do realize that inserting coins into a soda machine results in a cool beverage appearing below?  And ultimately, how do we understand people’s reactions to events? The… Continue reading Grand Challenges of Neuroscience: Day 6

A Brief Introduction to Reinforcement Learning

Computational models that are implemented, i.e., written out as equations or software, are an increasingly important tool for the cognitive neuroscientist.  This is because implemented models are, effectively, hypotheses that have been worked out to the point where they make quantitative predictions about behavior and/or neural activity. In earlier posts, we outlined two computational models… Continue reading A Brief Introduction to Reinforcement Learning

Levels of Analysis and Emergence: The Neural Basis of Memory

Cognitive neuroscience constantly works to find the appropriate level of description (or, in the case of computational modeling, implementation) for the topic being studied.  The goal of this post is to elaborate on this point a bit and then illustrate it with an interesting recent example from neurophysiology. As neuroscientists, we can often  choose to… Continue reading Levels of Analysis and Emergence: The Neural Basis of Memory

CNS Meeting 2008: Development of Cognitive Control

I just got back from CNS a few days ago. I thought I’d write a quick summary of one of the more interesting symposia at the conference. Taking place Monday (4/14) afternoon, The rise and fall of cognitive control: Lifespan development covered how executive brain functions develop and peak in the 20s and 30s, falling… Continue reading CNS Meeting 2008: Development of Cognitive Control

Joaquin Fuster on Cortical Dynamics

I recently watched this talk (below) by Joaquin Fuster. His theories provide a good integration of cortical functions and distributed processing in working and long-term memory. He also has some cool videos of likely network interactions across cortex (in real time) in his talk. Here is a diagram of Dr. Fuster’s view of cortical hierarchies:… Continue reading Joaquin Fuster on Cortical Dynamics