1. Neuroscience
Download icon

Causal evidence for lateral prefrontal cortex dynamics supporting cognitive control

  1. Derek Evan Nee  Is a corresponding author
  2. Mark D'Esposito
  1. Florida State University, United States
  2. Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, United States
Research Advance
  • Cited 12
  • Views 1,627
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2017;6:e28040 doi: 10.7554/eLife.28040


The lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) is essential for higher-level cognition, but how its interactions support cognitive control remains elusive. Previously (Nee and D'Esposito, 2016), dynamic causal modeling (DCM) indicated that mid LPFC integrates abstract, rostral and concrete, caudal influences to inform context-appropriate action. Here, we use continuous theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (cTBS) to causally test this model. cTBS was applied to three LPFC sites and a control site in counterbalanced sessions. Behavioral modulations resulting from cTBS were largely predicted by information flow within the previously estimated DCM. However, cTBS to caudal LPFC unexpectedly impaired processes presumed to involve rostral LPFC. Adding a pathway from caudal to mid-rostral LPFC significantly improved the model fit and accounted for the observed behavioral findings. These data provide causal evidence for LPFC dynamics supporting cognitive control and demonstrate the utility of combining DCM with causal manipulations to test and refine models of cognition.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Derek Evan Nee

    Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-7858-6871
  2. Mark D'Esposito

    Department of Psychology, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (F32 NS0802069)

  • Derek Evan Nee

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (P01 NS040813)

  • Mark D'Esposito

National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH063901)

  • Mark D'Esposito

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Human subjects: Informed consent was obtained in accordance with the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects at the University of California, Berkeley under protocol number 2010-02-781.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Lila Davachi, New York University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: April 25, 2017
  2. Accepted: August 30, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: September 13, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: October 13, 2017 (version 2)


© 2017, Nee & D'Esposito

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


  • 1,627
    Page views
  • 318
  • 12

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Scopus, Crossref, PubMed Central.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Further reading

    1. Neuroscience
    J Jesús Hernández-Pérez et al.
    Research Article Updated
    1. Neuroscience
    Louise P Kirsch et al.
    Short Report Updated