Projects currently underway focus on four interrelated topics. 

Performance monitoring, cognitive control and decision making

A primary interest of the lab is in the monitoring and control of cognitive processingNeuroimaging work focusing on the anterior cingulate cortex has led to the idea that this region of cortex may serve, in part, to monitor current information processing demands.  One role of this monitoring function appears to be to regulate executive control mechanisms based partly in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.  Another role, currently under investigation, may be to guide strategy selection so as to maximize processing efficiency and minimize cognitive workload.   We have also recently shown that the cingulate may play a related role in reward processing, by transmitting information about effort costs to reward sensitive structures including the ventral striatum. 

Representative Publications:

Kool, W., McGuire, J. T., Rosen, Z., & Botvinick, M. M. (2010). Decision making and the avoidance of cognitive demand. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 665-682. pdf

McGuire, J. T. & Botvinick, M. M. (2010). Prefrontal cortex, cognitive control, and the registration of decision costs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 7922-7926. pdf

Botvinick, M. M. & Huffstetler, S., McGuire, J. (2009). Effort discounting in human nucleus accumbens. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 9(1), 16-27. pdf

Botvinick, M. (2007). Conflict monitoring and decision making: Reconciling two perspectives on anterior cingulate function. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, 356-366 pdf

Botvinick, M., Cohen, J. D. & Carter, C. S. (2004). Conflict monitoring and anterior cingulate cortex: An update. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 8, 539-546. pdf

Botvinick, M., Braver, T., Barch, D. Carter, C. & Cohen, J. (2001). Conflict monitoring and cognitive control. Psychological Review, 108 (3), 624-652. pdf

Botvinick, M., Nystrom, L., Fissell, K., Carter, C. & Cohen, J. (1999). Conflict monitoring vs. selection-for-action in anterior cingulate cortex. Nature, 402, 179-181. pdf

Hierarchical structure in behavior

A second project in the lab focuses on another aspect of control, the control of sequential behavior.   The basic question under investigation here is: How are goal-directed action sequences organized and executed?   A particular focus is on hierarchical structure in behavior.  The lab has put forth a computational model of routine sequential behavior, and is now focusing additionally on potential implications for psychology and neuroscience of hierarchical reinforcement learning. 

Representative publications:

Ribas-Fernandes, J., Solway, A., Diuk, C., Barto, A. G., Niv, Y. & Botvinick, M. (2011). A neural signature of hierarchical reinforcement learning. Neuron, 71, 370-379. pdf

Botvinick, M. M., Niv, Y. & Barto, A. C. (2009).  Hierarchically organized behavior and its neural foundations: a reinforcement learning perspective. Cognition, 113, 262-280. pdf

Botvinick, M. M. (2008). Hierarchical models of behavior and prefrontal function. (Invited review). Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12,. 201-208. pdf

Botvinick, M. (2007). Multilevel structure in behavior and in the brain: a computational model of Fuster’s hierarchy. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B: Biological Sciences, 362, 1615-1626. pdf

Botvinick, M. & Plaut, D. C. (2004)  Doing without schema hierarchies: A recurrent connectionist approach to routine sequential action and its pathologies.  Psychological Review, 111, 395-429. pdf


Short-term memory for serial order

A third project is also concerned with sequencing, but focuses on the representation of sequential order in working memory.   A core objective here is to bridge between detailed behavioral data concerning memory for serial order and accumulating neuroscientific evidence linking this faculty to specific computational mechanisms involving parietal and prefrontal cortex. 

Representative publications:

Botvinick, M. & Watanabe, T. (2007). From numerosity to ordinal rank: A gain-field model of serial order representation in cortical working memory.  Journal of Neuroscience, 27, 8636-8642. pdf

Botvinick, M. & Plaut, D. C. (2006).   Short-term memory for serial order: A recurrent neural network model.  Psychological Review, 113, 201-233. pdf


Studying language through multivariate imaging analysis

The lab’s interest in verbal working memory has also led to a new research project focusing on the representation of phonological information in cerebral cortex.    Here, multivariate imaging analysis techniques are being used to investigate the form and similarity relations among neural representations of speech sounds, to track how such representations may differ across individuals, and to investigate how phonological representations may change with experience. 

Representative publications:

Pereira, F., Detre, G. & Botvinick, M. (2013). Using Wikipedia to learn semantic feature representations of concrete concepts in neuroimaging experiments. Arificial Intelligence, 194, 240-252. pdf

Botvinick, M., Huffstetler, S. & Rogers, T. T. (2007). Using multivoxel pattern analysis to recover semantic similarity relations. NeuroImage, 36, Supplement 1 (Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping), S49.

Botvinick, M. M. & Bylsma, L. M. (2005)  Imaging phonological representations and their similarity structure  with pattern-analytic fMRI.  Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (Special Issue of NeuroImage), S49.