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Two, Not One Networks Rule Brain's Voluntary Chain-of-command

A recent research, examining the upper echelons of the human brain's chain-of-command, has found that there are not one but two corresponding commanders in charge of the brain .

Neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that these two commanders are networks of brain regions that do not consult each other but still work toward a common intention i.e. control of voluntary, goal-oriented actions.

This includes an immense range of activities from reading a word to searching for a star to singing a song, but likely does not include uncontrolled behaviors such as control of the pulse rate or digestion.

"This was a big surprise. We knew several brain regions contribute to top-down control, but most of us thought we'd eventually show all those regions linking together in one system, one little guy up top telling everyone else what to do," says senior author Steven Petersen, Ph.D., James S. McDonnell Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and professor of neurology and psychology.

The findings, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help efforts to comprehend the effects of brain injury and build up new strategies to treat such injuries.

"For example, on rare occasions patients with brain injuries will develop behaviors that are stimulus-bound: Every time they encounter a particular stimulus, they respond exactly the same way," explains first author Nico Dosenbach, an M.D./Ph.D. student. "One man with a brain injury started undressing everytime he saw a bed, regardless of whether it was in a furniture store or his own bedroom. This research may help us understand what's happening to these patients."

For the new study, Dosenbach, Petersen and colleagues including graduate student Damien Fair and Bradley Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., used a different brain scanning technique called resting state functional connectivity MRI. For this technique, vo
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