Journal or Book Title
Cognitive models in psychology and neuroscience widely assume that the human brain maintains an abstract representation of tasks. This assumption is fundamental to theories explaining how we learn quickly, think creatively, and act flexibly. However, neural evidence for a verifiably generative abstract task representation has been lacking. Here, we report an experimental paradigm that requires forming such a representation to act adaptively in novel conditions without feedback. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we observed that abstract task structure was represented within left mid-lateral prefrontal cortex, bilateral precuneus, and inferior parietal cortex. These results provide support for the neural instantiation of the long-supposed abstract task representation in a setting where we can verify its influence. Such a representation can afford massive expansions of behavioral flexibility without additional experience, a vital characteristic of human cognition.
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Office of Naval ResearchOffice of Naval Research [N00014-16-1-2832, R25GM125500, F32MH116592]
Vaidya, Avinash R.; Jones, Henry M.; Castillo, Johanny; and Badre, David, "Neural Representation of Abstract Task Structure During Generalization" (2021). ELIFE. 61.