Monitoring and control of action by the frontal lobes

Neuron. 2002 Oct 10;36(2):309-22. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)00964-9.


Success requires deciding among alternatives, controlling the initiation of movements, and judging the consequences of actions. When alternatives are difficult to distinguish, habitual responses must be overcome, or consequences are uncertain, deliberation is necessary and a supervisory system exerts control over the processes that produce sensory-guided movements. We have investigated these processes by recording neural activity in the frontal lobe of macaque monkeys performing a countermanding task. Distinct neurons in the frontal eye field respond to visual stimuli or control the production of the movements. In the supplementary eye field and anterior cingulate cortex, neurons appear not to control directly movement initiation but instead signal the production of errors, the anticipation and delivery of reinforcement, and the presence of processing conflict. These signals form the core of current models of supervisory control of sensorimotor processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*