Goal-direction and top-down control
Timothy J. Buschman and Earl K. Miller

We review the neural mechanisms that support top-down control of behavior.  We suggest that goal-directed behavior utilizes two systems that work in concert.  A basal ganglia-centered system quickly learns simple, fixed goal-directed behaviors while a prefrontal cortex-centered system gradually learns more complex (abstract or long-term) goal-directed behaviors.  Interactions between these two systems allows top-down control mechanisms to learn how to direct behavior towards a goal but also how to guide behavior when faced with a novel situation.

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About the Author

The Miller Lab uses experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of the high-level cognitive functions that underlie complex goal-directed behavior. ekmillerlab.mit.edu