Adaptive coding in the human brain: distinct object features are encoded by overlapping voxels in frontoparietal cortex

Jade B. Jackson*, Alexandra Woolgar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Our ability to flexibly switch between different tasks is a key component of cognitive control. Non-human primate (NHP) studies (e.g., Freedman, Riesenhuber, Poggio, & Miller, 2001) have shown that prefrontal neurons are re-used across tasks, re-configuring their responses to code currently relevant information. In a similar vein, in the human brain, the “multiple demand” (MD) system is suggested to exert control by adjusting its responses, selectively processing information in line with our current goals (Duncan, 2010). However, whether the same or different resources (underlying neural populations) in the human brain are recruited to solve different tasks remains elusive. In the present study, we aimed to bridge the gap between the NHP and human literature by examining human functional imaging data at an intermediate level of resolution: quantifying the extent to which single voxels contributed to multiple neural codes. Participants alternated between two tasks requiring the selection of feature information from two distinct sets of objects. We examined whether neural codes for the relevant stimulus features in the two different tasks depended on the same or different voxels. In line with the electrophysiological literature, MD voxels were more likely to contribute to multiple neural codes than we predicted based on permutation tests. Comparatively, in the visual system the neural codes depended on distinct sets of voxels. Our data emphasise the flexibility of the MD regions to re-configure their responses and adaptively code relevant information across different tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-34
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • MVPA
  • fMRI
  • adaptive coding
  • voxel re-use


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