The functional anatomy of cognitive control: A domain-general brain network for uncertainty processing

Tingting Wu, Caiqi Chen, Alfredo Spagna, Xia Wu, Melissa Ann Mackie, Shira Russell-Giller, Pengfei Xu, Yue jia Luo, Xun Liu, Patrick R. Hof, Jin Fan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Cognitive control is the coordination of mental operations under conditions of uncertainty in accordance with goal-directed behaviors, and plays a key role in the domains of executive control, working memory, and decision-making. Although there is emerging evidence of common involvement of the cognitive control network (CCN) of the brain in these domains, this network has mostly been linked to the processing of conflict, which is just one case of an increase in uncertainty. Here, we conducted an activation-likelihood-estimation-based large-scale meta-analysis of 289 functional magnetic resonance imaging studies in the three domains to examine the common involvement of the CCN in uncertainty processing by contrasting the high-uncertainty versus low-uncertainty conditions. We found a general association between increase in uncertainty and an activation increase in regions of the CCN, including the frontoparietal network (comprising the frontal eye fields, the areas near and along the intraparietal sulcus, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), the cingulo-opercular network (including the anterior cingulate cortex extending to the supplementary motor area, and the anterior insular cortex), and a subcortical structure (the striatum). These results demonstrate that the CCN is a domain-general construct underlying uncertainty processing to support goal-directed behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1292
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • RRID: SCR_014921
  • cognitive control
  • cognitive control network
  • decision-making
  • executive control
  • meta-analysis
  • working memory


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