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Cereb Cortex. 2005 Feb;15(2):229-37. Epub 2004 Jul 6.

Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex resolves conflict from distracting stimuli by boosting attention toward relevant events.

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Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


In everyday life, we often focus greater attention on behaviorally relevant stimuli to limit the processing of distracting events. For example, when distracting voices intrude upon a conversation at a noisy social gathering, we concentrate more attention on the speaker of interest to better comprehend his or her speech. In the present study, we investigated whether dorsal/caudal regions of the anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), thought to make a major contribution to cognitive control, boost attentional resources toward behaviorally relevant stimuli as a means for limiting the processing of distracting events. Sixteen healthy participants performed a cued global/local selective attention task while brain activity was recorded with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. Consistent with our hypotheses, greater dACC activity during distracting events predicted reduced behavioral measures of interference from those same events. dACC activity also differed for cues to attend to global versus local features of upcoming visual objects, further indicating a role in directing attention toward task-relevant stimuli. Our findings indicate a role for dACC in focusing attention on behaviorally relevant stimuli, especially when the achievement of our behavioral goals is threatened by distracting events.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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