The Anterior Cingulate as a Conflict Monitor: fMRI and ERP Studies

Physiol Behav. 2002 Dec;77(4-5):477-82. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(02)00930-7.


We propose that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) contributes to cognition by detecting the presence of conflict during information processing, and to alert systems involved in top-down control to resolve this conflict. Here, we review several functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and event-related potential (ERP) studies that have used simple response interference tasks, and propose that ACC activity is activated prior to the response during correct conflict trials and reflected in the frontocentral N2, and immediately following error trials and reflected in the error-related negativity (ERN). Furthermore, we suggest that certain disturbances in cognition and behavior in common mental disorders such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be understood as resulting from alteration in performance monitoring functions associated with this region of the brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / anatomy & histology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology