The posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) is one of the least understood regions of the cerebral cortex. By contrast, the anterior cingulate cortex has been the subject of intensive investigation in humans and model animal systems, leading to detailed behavioural and computational theoretical accounts of its function. The time is right for similar progress to be made in the PCC given its unique anatomical and physiological properties and demonstrably important contributions to higher cognitive functions and brain diseases. Here, we describe recent progress in understanding the PCC, with a focus on convergent findings across species and techniques that lay a foundation for establishing a formal theoretical account of its functions. Based on this converging evidence, we propose that the broader PCC region contains three major subregions — the dorsal PCC, ventral PCC and retrosplenial cortex — that respectively support the integration of executive, mnemonic and spatial processing systems. This tripartite subregional view reconciles inconsistencies in prior unitary theories of PCC function and offers promising new avenues for progress.
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B.L.F. is supported by NIH R01MH129439 and NIH R01MH116914; B.Y.H. is supported by NIH R01DA038615 and R01MH125377; S.R.H. is supported by NIH R01MH118257.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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- Brodmann’s maps
Maps of distinct cytoarchitectural areas in the human cerebral cortex created by Korbinian Brodmann in 1909.
- Connectivity hub
A node within a network that is connected to many other nodes.
- Episodic memory
Conscious memory for prior lived experiences and events in the recent and remote past.
- Executive control
Higher level cognitive functions allowing and supporting the control of other cognitive processes.
Memory recognition that lacks conscious details of past items or events.
Memory retrieval involving conscious details of past events.
The reoccurrence of brain activity patterns associated with a prior stimulus or behaviour.
- Resting-state activity
Spontaneous physiological brain activity during the absence of explicitly instructed task requirements.
Rapid and short movements of the eyes to a new point of visual focus.
- Self-referential cognition
Cognitive processes focused on consideration of or in relation to oneself.
- Temporal receptive window
The length of time before a neural response during which sensory information may affect that response.
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Foster, B.L., Koslov, S.R., Aponik-Gremillion, L. et al. A tripartite view of the posterior cingulate cortex. Nat Rev Neurosci (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41583-022-00661-x