Cognitive control is proposed to rely on a rostral-to-caudal hierarchy of neural processing within the prefrontal cortex (PFC), with more rostral parts exerting control over more caudal parts. Anatomical and functional data suggest that this hierarchical organization of the PFC may be separated into a ventral and a dorsal component. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that the apex of the hierarchy resides within the mid-lateral rather the rostral PFC. However, investigating the hierarchical aspect of rostro-to-caudal processing requires quantification of the directed interactions between PFC regions. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) in a sample of healthy young adults we analyzed directed interactions between rostral and caudal PFC during passive watching of nature documentaries. Directed coherence (DC) as a measure of directed interaction was computed pairwise between 38 channels evenly distributed over the lateral prefrontal convexity. Results revealed an overall predominance of rostral-to-caudal directed interactions in the PFC that further dissociated along a ventro-dorsal axis: Dorsal regions exerted stronger rostro-caudally directed interactions on dorsal than on ventral regions and vice versa. Interactions between ventral and dorsal PFC were stronger from ventral to dorsal areas than vice versa. Results further support the notion that the mid-dorsolateral PFC constitutes the apex of the prefrontal hierarchy. Taken together these data provide novel evidence for parallel dorsal and ventral streams within the rostro-caudal hierarchical organization of the PFC. FNIRS-based analyses of directed interactions put forward a new perspective on the functional architecture of the prefrontal hierarchy and complement previous insights from functional magnetic resonance imaging.
- prefrontal cortex
- hierarchical organization
- direct interactions
- near infrared spectroscopy
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- School of Natural & Computing Sciences, Physics - Personal Chair
- Institute for Complex Systems and Mathematical Biology (ICSMB)