Dissociable contributions of prefrontal and parietal cortices to response selection

Neuroimage. 2002 Nov;17(3):1562-71. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2002.1252.


The ability to select between possible responses to a given situation is central to human cognition. The goal of this study was to distinguish between brain areas representing candidate responses and areas selecting between competing response alternatives. Event-related fMRI data were acquired while 10 healthy adults performed a task used to examine response competition: the Eriksen flanker task. Left parietal cortex was activated by either of two manipulations that increased the need to maintain a representation of possible responses. In contrast, lateral prefrontal and rostral anterior cingulate cortices were specifically engaged by the need to select among competing response alternatives. These findings support the idea that parietal cortex is involved in activating possible responses on the basis of learned stimulus-response associations, and that prefrontal cortex is recruited when there is a need to select between competing responses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*