Attentional Episodes and Cognitive Control

Seminar | November 9 | 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | 1104 Berkeley Way West

 John Duncan, MRC Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge

 Neuroscience Institute, Helen Wills

Abstract: Human fMRI studies show a tightly-localised set of “multiple-demand” or MD regions, involved in solution of many different cognitive challenges, widely separated yet strongly functionally connected, and linked to standard measures of fluid intelligence. Multiple-demand regions are generally associated with “cognitive control”, but how should control be conceived? Using data from behavioural, imaging and single unit studies, I argue that the core role of MD regions is to solve complex problems in an integrated structure of simpler, more solvable, focused parts. With wide distribution in the brain, strong functional connectivity, modest relative specializations, and strong conjunctive coding, MD regions are well placed to act as the integrating core of complex thought and behaviour.

Bio: After completing his education at the University of Cambridge in 1976, Duncan worked for two years with Michael Posner at the University of Oregon, and then worked at the Medical Research Council (MRC). As of 2018, he is Programme Leader at the MRC's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge; he is also a Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St John's College, Oxford.

Duncan was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2008 and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2009. In 2012, he was awarded the Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.