Cortical and subcortical contributions to context-control learning.
"Cognitive control" describes our ability to strategically bias information processing in line with internal goals. Traditionally, research has focused on delineating the sources of top-down biasing, implicating the lateral prefrontal cortex. The past two decades, however, have seen increasing interest in the regulation of control, that is, how learning processes guide the context-sensitive application of top-down biasing. Here, we review and synthesize recent research into the cognitive and neural mechanisms of this type of "context-control learning". We first discuss a fast-growing cognitive psychology literature documenting how specific cognitive control states can become associated with, and subsequently triggered by, contextual cues. We then review neuroimaging studies that speak to the neural substrates of contextual adjustments in control, with a particular focus on recent work that explicitly modeled context-control learning processes. We conclude that these studies suggest an important subcortical extension of the traditional frontal control network, as they indicate a key role for the caudate nucleus in forming associations between contextual cues and appropriate control settings.
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