Task-specific subnetworks extend from prefrontal cortex to striatum

Peter Stiers*, Alexandros Goulas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies on the dynamic representation of task content focus preferentially on the cerebral cortex. However, neurophysiological studies report coding of task-relevant features also by neurons in the striatum, suggesting basal ganglia involvement in cognitive decision-making. Here we use fMRI data to show that also in humans the striatum is an integrated part of the cognitive brain network. Twelve participants performed 3 cognitive tasks in the scanner, i.e., the Eriksen flanker task, a 2-back matching spatial working memory task, and a response scheme switching task. First, we use region of interest-based multivariate pattern classification to demonstrate that each task reliably induces a unique activity pattern in the striatum and in the lateral prefrontal cortex. We show that the three tasks can also be distinguished in putamen, caudate nucleus and ventral striatum alone. We additionally establish that the contribution of striatum to cognition is not sensitive to habituation or learning. Secondly, we use voxel-to-voxel functional connectivity to establish that voxels in the lateral prefrontal cortex and in the striatum that prefer the same task show significantly stronger functional coupling than voxel pairs in these remote structures that prefer different tasks. These results suggest that striatal neurons form subnetworks with cognition-related regions of the prefrontal cortex. These remote neuron populations are interconnected via functional couplings that exceed the time of execution of the specific tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-125
Number of pages20
Early online date8 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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