Functional specialization and flexibility in human association cortex

B. T. Thomas Yeo, Fenna M. Krienen, Simon B. Eickhoff, Siti N. Yaakub, Peter T. Fox, Randy L. Buckner, Christopher L. Asplund, Michael W.L. Chee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


The association cortex supports cognitive functions enabling flexible behavior. Here, we explored the organization of human association cortex by mathematically formalizing the notion that a behavioral task engages multiple cognitive components, which are in turn supported by multiple overlapping brain regions. Application of the model to a large data set of neuroimaging experiments (N=10 449) identified complex zones of frontal and parietal regions that ranged from being highly specialized to highly flexible. The network organization of the specialized and flexible regions was explored with an independent resting-state fMRI data set (N=1000). Cortical regions specialized for the same components were strongly coupled, suggesting that components function as partially isolated networks. Functionally flexible regions participated in multiple components to different degrees. This heterogeneous selectivity was predicted by the connectivity between flexible and specialized regions. Functionally flexible regions might support binding or integrating specialized brain networks that, in turn, contribute to the ability to execute multiple and varied tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3654-3672
Number of pages19
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Cognitive ontology
  • Functional connectivity
  • Meta-analysis
  • Parietal cortex
  • Prefrontal cortex


Dive into the research topics of 'Functional specialization and flexibility in human association cortex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this