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PLoS One. 2010 Oct 6;5(10):e13155. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013155.

Dissociable processes of cognitive control during error and non-error conflicts: a study of the stop signal task.

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Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.



Conflict detection and subsequent behavioral adjustment are critical to daily life, and how this process is controlled has been increasingly of interest. A medial cortical region which includes the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) has been theorized to act as a conflict detector that can direct prefrontal activity for behavioral adjustments. This conflict monitoring hypothesis was supported by many imaging studies of the Stroop task, with a focus on non-error processes. Here we sought to examine whether this circuit could be generalized to the stop signal task (SST), another behavioral paradigm widely used to study cognitive control. In particular, with a procedure to elicit errors in the SST, we examined whether error and non-error control were mediated by the same pathways.


In functional magnetic resonance imaging of 60 healthy adults, we demonstrated that the medial cortical activity during stop success (SS) as compared to go success (G) trials is correlated with increased prefrontal activity in post-stop SS as compared to post-go SS trials, though this correlation was not specific to the medial cortical region. Furthermore, thalamic and insular rather than medial cortical activation during stop error (SE) as compared to G trials correlated with increased prefrontal activity in post-stop SS as compared to post-go SS trials.


Taken together, these new findings challenge a specific role of the ACC and support distinct pathways for error and non-error conflict processing in cognitive control.

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