Please read Dr. MacDowell’s article in Current Opinion in Neurobiology titled, “A Goldilocks theory of cognitive control: Balancing precision and efficiency with low-dimensional control states.“
The world is rich; we are faced with a wide variety of sensory inputs and are capable of performing a myriad of different actions. Cognitive control brings order to this chaos, using our goals to focus on relevant information and guide our actions. To accomplish this, cognitive control creates a control state that directs the flow of information through the brain in a way that supports the desired behavior. For example, both hitting a baseball and studying for a test require sensory processing. The control state defines how these sensory representations interact with other regions; hitting a baseball requires routing sensory information about the velocity and spin of the ball to and from motor regions, while studying requires routing orthographic sensory information to and from associative and memory regions. Several neural mechanisms have been proposed to direct the flow of neural activity through the brain, including gain modulation, synchronous oscillations, neuromodulators, and cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical loops. In this way, cognitive control can ensure that goal-relevant information propagates between functionally diverse brain regions, thereby supporting the behavior. To read the full article.
A Goldilocks theory of cognitive control: Balancing precision and efficiency with low-dimensional control states. MacDowell CJ, Tafazoli S, Buschman TJ. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2022 Jul 20;76:102606. PMID: 35870301 DOI: 1016/j.conb.2022.102606 Online ahead of print.