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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2004 Jul;20(2):132-43.

A topography of executive functions and their interactions revealed by functional magnetic resonance imaging.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.


We used fMRI to study the brain processes involved in the executive control of behavior. The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), which allows unpredictable and predictable NOGO events to be contrasted, was imaged using a mixed (block and event-related) fMRI design to examine tonic and phasic processes involved in response inhibition, error detection, conflict monitoring and sustained attention. A network of regions, including right ventral prefrontal cortex (PFC), left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) and right inferior parietal cortex, was activated for successful unpredictable inhibitions, while rostral anterior cingulate was implicated in error processing and the pre-SMA in conflict monitoring. Furthermore, the pattern of correlations between left dorsolateral PFC, implicated in task-set maintenance, and the pre-SMA were indicative of a tight coupling between prefrontally mediated control and conflict levels monitored more posteriorly. The results reveal that the executive control of behavior can be separated into distinct functions performed by discrete cortical regions.

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