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The Agile Mind$
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Wilma Koutstaal

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195367188

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195367188.001.0001

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Brain Bases of Levels of Specificity and Levels of Control, Part 1

Brain Bases of Levels of Specificity and Levels of Control, Part 1

The Frontal Cortex, and Beyond

(p.337) 8 Brain Bases of Levels of Specificity and Levels of Control, Part 1
The Agile Mind

Wilma Koutstaal

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses predominantly on the relatively more controlled and abstract ends of the levels of control and levels of specificity continua. It considers evidence at several levels, including that of neural systems (e.g., the frontal-parietal network) and also, although less extensively, neurochemical and neurophysiological levels. It begins with an overview of ways in which the frontal cortex is uniquely situated to play an adeptly adaptive and abstract representational role. Subsequent sections focus on evidence from single-cell recordings for the flexible abstract representation of categories and rules, neuroimaging evidence for hierarchical and functional distinctions within the frontal cortex, and neurochemical and neuroanatomical contributors to three forms of cognitive flexibility, including set shifting, reversal learning, and task switching. Neuropsychological and lesion evidence for cognitive flexibility of a more “spontaneous” form, such as typically called on in tasks of fluency and divergent thinking, is then considered. A final section takes up the interrelated topics of goal neglect, fluid intelligence, and working memory, and underscores the need to go “beyond frontal cortex” to consider the dynamic and continually changing interactions of frontal regions with parietal and occipitotemporal cortex.

Keywords:   specificity, neural systems, frontal cortex, cognitive flexibility, abstract representation, goal neglect, fluid intelligence, working memory

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