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J Neurosci. 2013 Apr 17;33(16):7091-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4692-12.2013.

Cognitive control and the salience network: an investigation of error processing and effective connectivity.

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Computational, Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Laboratory, Centre for Neuroscience, Division of Experimental Medicine, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital Campus, London W12 0NN, United Kingdom.


The Salience Network (SN) consists of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and bilateral insulae. The network responds to behaviorally salient events, and an important question is how its nodes interact. One theory is that the dACC provides the earliest cortical signal of behaviorally salient events, such as errors. Alternatively, the anterior right insula (aRI) has been proposed to provide an early cognitive control signal. As these regions frequently coactivate, it has been difficult to disentangle their roles using conventional methods. Here we use dynamic causal modeling and a Bayesian model evidence technique to investigate the causal relationships between nodes in the SN after errors. Thirty-five human subjects performed the Simon task. The task has two conditions (congruent and incongruent) producing two distinct error types. Neural activity associated with errors was investigated using fMRI. Subjects made a total of 1319 congruent and 1617 incongruent errors. Errors resulted in robust activation of the SN. Dynamic causal modeling analyses demonstrated that input into the SN was most likely via the aRI for both error types and that the aRI was the only region intrinsically connected to both other nodes. Only incongruent errors produced behavioral adaptation, and the strength of the connection between the dACC and the left insulae correlated with the extent of this behavioral change. We conclude that the aRI, not the dACC, drives the SN after errors on an attentionally demanding task, and that a change in the effective connectivity of the dACC is associated with behavioral adaptation after errors.

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