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Humans are adept at switching between goal-directed behaviors quickly and effectively.

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The conflicting needs to maintain and yet appropriately update context representations present opposing perils—a sort of Scylla and Charybdis—that must be navigated to avoid both distraction and perseveration.

On the one hand, PFC representations must persevere throughout performance of a task, so that attention and behavior remain directed toward the goal and are not derailed by internal or external distraction.

It has long been recognized that prefrontal cortex (PFC) is critical for this ability, often referred to as cognitive control (1, 2).

There is a growing consensus that PFC contributes to cognitive control by maintaining in working memory representations of information (e.g., instructions or rules) that are necessary to direct attention to and successfully perform goal-directed tasks (3–10).

Several studies have documented the updating of context information in PFC (11–18).

However, few studies have addressed the mechanisms by which this is accomplished.

In the absence of this signal, inputs have a weak influence on PFC, allowing representations that are currently active to persist.

When the gating signal occurs, inputs to the PFC are enhanced.

We found that TMS pulses to the right dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) immediately after context presentation, and well in advance of the response, adversely impacted context-dependent relative to context-independent responses.

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