Cognitive Flexibility

How we should act depends on the current situation. For example, when our cellphone rings, we usually answer it.  However, if our cellphone rings while we are in a meeting, we will quickly mute.  In both situations the sensory input is the same (our cellphone ringing) but how we respond changes.

 

Such cognitive flexibility is key to intelligent behavior, as it allows us to act appropriately in any given situation.  Remarkably, we can change our behavior quickly -- our response to our cellphone ringing changes in the few seconds it takes to walk into a meeting room.  Unfortunately, cognitive flexibility is disrupted by many mental disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. 

Our research aims to understand the neural mechanisms that support cognitive flexibility.  By gaining a deeper, mechanistic understanding of cognitive flexibility, we hope to lay the groundwork for new treatments for these disorders.

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Related Publications

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Shared mechanisms underlie the control of working memory and attention

Panichello MF and Buschman TJ

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Nature, Mar. 31, 2021.

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Low-Dimensional Spatio-Temporal Dynamics Underlie Cortex-Wide Neural Activity

MacDowell CJ and Buschman TJ

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Current Biology. May 28, 2020. 30 (14): 2665-2680.

Cortical Information Flow during Flexible Sensorimotor Decisions

Siegel M, Buschman TJ and Miller EK

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Science, 2015. 348 (6241): 1352-1355.

Goal-direction and top-down control

Buschman TJ and Miller EK

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 2014. 369 (1655): 20130471.

Synchronous oscillatory neural ensembles for rules in the prefrontal cortex

Buschman TJ, Denovellis E, Diogo C, Bullock D, Miller EK

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Neuron, 2012; 76 (4): 838-846.