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Neuroimage. 2011 Jul 15;57(2):303-11. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.12.027. Epub 2010 Dec 17.

The dorsal medial frontal cortex is sensitive to time on task, not response conflict or error likelihood.

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Department of Radiology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The dorsal medial frontal cortex (dMFC) is highly active during choice behavior. Though many models have been proposed to explain dMFC function, the conflict monitoring model is the most influential. It posits that dMFC is primarily involved in detecting interference between competing responses thus signaling the need for control. It accurately predicts increased neural activity and response time (RT) for incompatible (high-interference) vs. compatible (low-interference) decisions. However, it has been shown that neural activity can increase with time on task, even when no decisions are made. Thus, the greater dMFC activity on incompatible trials may stem from longer RTs rather than response conflict. This study shows that (1) the conflict monitoring model fails to predict the relationship between error likelihood and RT, and (2) the dMFC activity is not sensitive to congruency, error likelihood, or response conflict, but is monotonically related to time on task.

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