Human cognition involves the dynamic integration of neural activity and neuromodulatory systems

James M. Shine, Michael Breakspear, Peter T. Bell, Kayla Ehgoetz Martens, Richard Shine, Oluwasanmi Koyejo, Olaf Sporns, Russell A. Poldrack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The human brain integrates diverse cognitive processes into a coherent whole, shifting fluidly as a function of changing environmental demands. Despite recent progress, the neurobiological mechanisms responsible for this dynamic system-level integration remain poorly understood. Here we investigated the spatial, dynamic, and molecular signatures of system-wide neural activity across a range of cognitive tasks. We found that neuronal activity converged onto a low-dimensional manifold that facilitates the execution of diverse task states. Flow within this attractor space was associated with dissociable cognitive functions, unique patterns of network-level topology, and individual differences in fluid intelligence. The axes of the low-dimensional neurocognitive architecture aligned with regional differences in the density of neuromodulatory receptors, which in turn relate to distinct signatures of network controllability estimated from the structural connectome. These results advance our understanding of functional brain organization by emphasizing the interface between neural activity, neuromodulatory systems, and cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-296
Number of pages8
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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