Executive control: balancing stability and flexibility via the duality of evolutionary neuroanatomical trends

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
Dialogues in clinical neuroscience 03/2012; 14(1):39-47.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The concept of executive functions has a rich history and remains current despite increased use of other terms, including working memory and cognitive control. Executive functions have sometimes been equated with functions subserved by the frontal cortex, but this adds little clarity, given that we so far lack a comprehensive theory of frontal function. Pending a more complete mechanistic understanding, clinically useful generalizations can help characterize both healthy cognition and multiple varieties of cognitive impairment. This article surveys several hierarchical and autoregulatory control theories, and suggests that the evolutionary cytoarchitectonic trends theory provides a valuable neuroanatomical framework to help organize research on frontal structure-function relations. The theory suggests that paleocortical/ventrolateral and archicortical/dorsomedial trends are associated with neural network flexibility and stability respectively, which comports well with multiple other conceptual distinctions that have been proposed to characterize ventral and dorsal frontal functions, including the "initiation/inhibition," "what/where," and "classification/expectation" hypotheses.

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