There is considerable uncertainty about the function of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). The PCC is a major node within the default mode network (DMN) and has high metabolic activity and dense structural connectivity to widespread brain regions, which suggests it has a role as a cortical hub. The region appears to be involved in internally directed thought, for example, memory recollection. However, recent nonhuman primate work provides evidence for a more active role in the control of cognition, through signaling an environmental change and the need to alter behavior. For an organism to flexibly react to a changing environment, information processed in functionally distinct brain networks needs to be integrated by such a cortical hub. If the PCC is involved in this process, its brain activity should show a complex and dynamic pattern that partially reflects activity in other brain networks. Using fMRI in humans and a multivariate analysis, we demonstrate that the PCC shows this type of complex functional architecture, where echoes of multiple other brain networks are seen in separable yet overlapping subregions. For example, a predominantly ventral region shows strong functional connectivity to the rest of the DMN, whereas two subregions within the dorsal PCC show high connectivity to frontoparietal networks involved in cognitive control. PCC subregions showed distinct patterns of activity modulation during the performance of an attentionally demanding task, suggesting that parts of the dorsal PCC interact with frontoparietal networks to regulate the balance between internally and externally directed cognition.
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