Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes

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Science  16 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5976, pp. 360-363
DOI: 10.1126/science.1183614

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Simultaneously Serving Two Goals

What are the neuronal mechanisms underlying dual-task performance? Charron and Koechlin (p. 360) used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study this question under conditions of varying incentive for two tasks. Subjects performed letter-matching tasks either sequentially or concurrently. Reward value for performance of each of the two tasks was manipulated orthogonally. Under conditions of single-task (sequential) performance, they observed bilateral brain activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate and the premotor cortex that correlated with the reward value of the current task. However, under dual-task conditions, activity in these regions on the left corresponded to primary-task reward performance, while on the right, activity corresponded to secondary-task performance. Under dual-task conditions, both reward and stimulus-response representations are thus segregated according to hemisphere.