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Staying engaged is necessary to maintain goal-directed behaviors. Despite this, engagement exhibits continuous, intrinsic fluctuations. Even in experimental settings, animals, unlike most humans, repeatedly and spontaneously move between periods of complete task engagement and disengagement. We, therefore, looked at behavior in male macaques (macaca mulatta) in four tasks while recording fMRI signals. We identified consistent autocorrelation in task disengagement. This made it possible to build models capturing task-independent engagement. We identified task general patterns of neural activity linked to impending sudden task disengagement in mid-cingulate gyrus. By contrast, activity centered in perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC) was associated with maintenance of performance across tasks. Importantly, we carefully controlled for task-specific factors such as the reward history and other motivational effects, such as response vigor, in our analyses. Moreover, we showed pgACC activity had a causal link to task engagement: transcranial ultrasound stimulation of pgACC changed task engagement patterns.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Animals, Male, Macaca mulatta, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Gyrus Cinguli, Reward, Frontal Lobe, Behavior, Animal, Brain Mapping, Motivation