What Executive Function Network is that? An Image-Based Meta-Analysis of Network Labels

Witt ST, van Ettinger-Veenstra H, Salo T, Riedel MC, Laird AR, Brain Topogr (2021).


The current state of label conventions used to describe brain networks related to executive functions is highly inconsistent, leading to confusion among researchers regarding network labels. Visually similar networks are referred to by different labels, yet these same labels are used to distinguish networks within studies. We performed a literature review of fMRI studies and identified nine frequently-used labels that are used to describe topographically or functionally similar neural networks: central executive network (CEN), cognitive control network (CCN), dorsal attention network (DAN), executive control network (ECN), executive network (EN), frontoparietal network (FPN), working memory network (WMN), task positive network (TPN), and ventral attention network (VAN). Our aim was to meta-analytically determine consistency of network topography within and across these labels. We hypothesized finding considerable overlap in the spatial topography among the neural networks associated with these labels. An image-based meta-analysis was performed on 158 group-level statistical maps (SPMs) received from authors of 69 papers listed on PubMed. Our results indicated that there was very little consistency in the SPMs labeled with a given network name. We identified four clusters of SPMs representing four spatially distinct executive function networks. We provide recommendations regarding label nomenclature and propose that authors looking to assign labels to executive function networks adopt this template set for labeling networks.