There is increasing evidence that the left lateral frontal cortex is hierarchically organized such that higher-order regions have an asymmetric top–down influence over lower order regions. However, questions remain about the underlying neuroarchitecture of this hierarchical control organization. Within the frontal cortex, dopamine plays an important role in cognitive control functions, and we hypothesized that dopamine may preferentially influence top–down connections within the lateral frontal hierarchy. Using a randomized, double-blind, within-subject design, we analyzed resting-state fMRI data of 66 healthy young participants who were scanned once each after administration of bromocriptine (a dopamine agonist with preferential affinity for D2 receptor), tolcapone (an inhibitor of catechol-O-methyltransferase), and placebo, to determine whether dopaminergic stimulation modulated effective functional connectivity between hierarchically organized frontal regions in the left hemisphere. We found that dopaminergic drugs modulated connections from the caudal middle frontal gyrus and the inferior frontal sulcus to both rostral and caudal frontal areas. In dorsal frontal regions, effectivity connectivity strength was increased, whereas in ventral frontal regions, effective connectivity strength was decreased. These findings suggest that connections within frontal cortex are differentially modulated by dopamine, which may bias the influence that frontal regions exert over each other.

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