Concurrent neuroimaging and neurostimulation reveals a causal role for dlPFC in coding of task-relevant information

Jade B. Jackson*, Eva Feredoes, Anina N. Rich, Michael Lindner, Alexandra Woolgar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) is proposed to drive brain-wide focus by biasing processing in favour of task-relevant information. A longstanding debate concerns whether this is achieved through enhancing processing of relevant information and/or by inhibiting irrelevant information. To address this, we applied transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) during fMRI, and tested for causal changes in information coding. Participants attended to one feature, whilst ignoring another feature, of a visual object. If dlPFC is necessary for facilitation, disruptive TMS should decrease coding of attended features. Conversely, if dlPFC is crucial for inhibition, TMS should increase coding of ignored features. Here, we show that TMS decreases coding of relevant information across frontoparietal cortex, and the impact is significantly stronger than any effect on irrelevant information, which is not statistically detectable. This provides causal evidence for a specific role of dlPFC in enhancing task-relevant representations and demonstrates the cognitive-neural insights possible with concurrent TMS-fMRI-MVPA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number588
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Journal Communications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. 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.


  • attention
  • cognitive control


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