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Distinct contributions of the caudate nucleus, rostral prefrontal cortex, and parietal cortex to the execution of instructed tasks
When we behave according to rules and instructions, our brains interpret abstract representations of what to do and transform them into actual behavior. In order to investigate the neural mechanisms behind this process, we devised an fMRI experiment that explicitly isolated rule interpretation from rule encoding and execution. Our results showed that a specific network of regions (including the left rostral prefrontal cortex, the caudate nucleus, and the bilateral posterior parietal cortices) is responsible for translating rules into executable form. An analysis of activation patterns across conditions revealed that the posterior parietal cortices represent a mental template for the task to perform, that the inferior parietal gyrus and the caudate nucleus are responsible for instantiating the template in the proper context, and that the left rostral prefrontal cortex integrates information across complex relationships.