fMRI paper on reactive control accepted

The fMRI paper by Katy Thakkar , Fiona van den Heiligenberg, Rene Kahn and Bas Neggers entitled "Frontal-subcortical circuits involved in reactive control and monitoring of gaze" has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Neuroscience (link to paper on journal website with access to full text). In this STARlab paper, 39 healty volunteers performed a task in which they had to quickly change their behavior during functional MRI. Specifically, visual targets could switch position while an eye movement was being prepared to it, and participants were instructed to rapidly redirect their action plan. This study was part of a larger project on executive control  in healthy volunteers and Schizophrenia patients currently running in our lab within the UMC Utrecht, Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, dept of Psychiatry.

It was observed that frontal eye fields, supplementary eye fields and the striatum in the basal ganglia were involved in changing an action that was already planned. Specifically, striatal activation explained individual performance, and activity in the supplementary eye fields in the midsaggital wall scaled with the size of the error that needed to be corrected, which indicates a role in performance monitoring.

This paper bridges the gap between humans and a large body of work on reactive stopping using similar eye movement tasks in non-human primates. A lot is known on how flexible control over behavior is implemented in the monkey brain, but in human studies such eye movement tasks as used by Katy Thakkar and colleages have hardly been used in fMRI experiments. Bridging this gap is crucial to understand and study this network in clinical conditions affecting the fronto-striatal network, that are characteriyed by executive functioning impairments. Such a clinical follow-up study is currently already taking place in the STARlab. Patients suffering from such conditions, for example in Schizophrenia or Parkinson's disease, have problems with successfully controlling their reactive behavior in a flexible manner, which might be explained by deficits in the network Katy Thakkar and colleages revealed in this study. A link to the paper will be placed here as soon as it is published online at the Journal of Neuroscience.


K.N. Thakkar, F.M.Z. van den Heiligenberg, R.S. Kahn and S.F.W Neggers (in press). Frontal-subcortical circuits involved in reactive control and monitoring of gaze. J Neurosci.


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