Integrating conflict detection and attentional control mechanisms

Bong J Walsh, Michael H Buonocore, Cameron S Carter, and George R Mangun (2011). J Cogn Neurosci, 23(9):2211-21.

Human behavior involves monitoring and adjusting performance to meet established goals. Performance-monitoring systems that act by detecting conflict in stimulus and response processing have been hypothesized to influence cortical control systems to adjust and improve performance. Here we used fMRI to investigate the neural mechanisms of conflict monitoring and resolution during voluntary spatial attention. We tested the hypothesis that the ACC would be sensitive to conflict during attentional orienting and influence activity in the frontoparietal attentional control network that selectively modulates visual information processing. We found that activity in ACC increased monotonically with increasing attentional conflict. This increased conflict detection activity was correlated with both increased activity in the attentional control network and improved speed and accuracy from one trial to the next. These results establish a long hypothesized interaction between conflict detection systems and neural systems supporting voluntary control of visual attention.

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