Theory of the Multiregional Neocortex: Large-Scale Neural Dynamics and Distributed Cognition

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The neocortex is a complex neurobiological system with many interacting regions. How these regions work together to subserve flexible behavior and cognition has become increasingly amenable to rigorous research. Here, I review recent experimental and theoretical work on the modus operandi of a multiregional cortex. These studies revealed several general principles for the neocortical interareal connectivity, low-dimensional macroscopic gradients of biological properties across cortical areas, and a hierarchy of timescales for information processing. Theoretical work suggests testable predictions regarding differential excitation and inhibition along feedforward and feedback pathways in the cortical hierarchy. Furthermore, modeling of distributed working memory and simple decision-making has given rise to a novel mathematical concept, dubbed bifurcation in space, that potentially explains how different cortical areas, with a canonical circuit organization but gradients of biological heterogeneities, are able to subserve their respective (e.g., sensory coding versus executive control) functions in a modularly organized brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-560
Number of pages28
JournalAnnual Review of Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • computational modeling
  • distributed cognition
  • global brain dynamics
  • hierarchy of timescales
  • macroscopic gradients
  • neocortical connectome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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