Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
We investigated the functional properties of a previously described cingulo-opercular network (CON) putatively involved in cognitive control. Analyses of common fMRI task-evoked activity during perceptual and episodic memory search tasks that differently recruited the dorsal attention (DAN) and default mode network (DMN) established the generality of this network. Regions within the CON (anterior insula/frontal operculum and anterior cingulate/presupplementary cortex) displayed sustained signals during extended periods in which participants searched for behaviorally relevant information in a dynamically changing environment or from episodic memory in the absence of sensory stimulation. The CON was activated during all phases of both tasks, which involved trial initiation, target detection, decision, and response, indicating its consistent involvement in a broad range of cognitive processes. Functional connectivity analyses showed that the CON flexibly linked with the DAN or DMN regions during perceptual or memory search, respectively. Aside from the CON, only a limited number of regions, including the lateral pFC, showed evidence of domain-general sustained activity, although in some cases the common activations may have reflected the functional-anatomical variability of domain-specific regions rather than a true domain generality. These additional regions also showed task-dependent functional connectivity with the DMN and DAN, suggesting that this feature is not a specific marker of cognitive control. Finally, multivariate clustering analyses separated the CON from other frontoparietal regions previously associated with cognitive control, indicating a unique fingerprint. We conclude that the CON's functional properties and interactions with other brain regions support a broad role in cognition, consistent with its characterization as a task control network.