Dual Mechanisms of Cognitive Control

Study Overview

This project focuses on understanding the psychological and neural mechanisms that give rise to cognitive control. Cognitive control processes are a component of human mental function that is fundamentally important in a wide range of domains, including attention, working memory, episodic memory, and decision making. Cognitive control disruptions are thought to be a major source of functional impairment for individuals suffering from a variety of mental health disorders and neuropsychiatric diseases. 

We have developed a theoretically coherent and mechanistic model, called Dual Mechanisms of Cognitive Control (DMC). The central hypothesis of the DMC framework is that cognitive control operates via two distinct operating modes – proactive control and reactive control.  The proactive control mode can be conceptualized as a form of “early selection,” in which goal-relevant information is actively maintained in a sustained manner, prior to the occurrence of cognitively demanding events, in order to optimally bias attention, perception and action systems in a goal-driven manner. In contrast, in reactive control, attention is recruited as a “late correction” mechanism that is mobilized only as needed in a just-in-time manner, such as after a high interference event is detected. These two cognitive control modes represent a core dimension of individual variability, encompassing multiple domains of cognitive control function in healthy young adults, but also in more extreme forms, contributing to dysfunction present in various impaired populations (e.g., schizophrenia, depression, ADHD, aging).

Study Timespan: June 5, 2013 – March 30, 2023

Principal Investigators

Todd Braver

Todd Braver, Ph.D. - WashU Principal Investigator

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