Author(s): Dehaene S, Kerszberg M, Changeux JP
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Abstract A minimal hypothesis is proposed concerning the brain processes underlying effortful tasks. It distinguishes two main computational spaces: a unique global workspace composed of distributed and heavily interconnected neurons with long-range axons, and a set of specialized and modular perceptual, motor, memory, evaluative, and attentional processors. Workspace neurons are mobilized in effortful tasks for which the specialized processors do not suffice. They selectively mobilize or suppress, through descending connections, the contribution of specific processor neurons. In the course of task performance, workspace neurons become spontaneously coactivated, forming discrete though variable spatio-temporal patterns subject to modulation by vigilance signals and to selection by reward signals. A computer simulation of the Stroop task shows workspace activation to increase during acquisition of a novel task, effortful execution, and after errors. We outline predictions for spatio-temporal activation patterns during brain imaging, particularly about the contribution of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate to the workspace.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in International Journal of School and Cognitive Psychology