Anterior cingulate cortex makes 2 contributions to minimizing distraction

Cereb Cortex. 2009 Mar;19(3):703-11. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn119. Epub 2008 Jul 24.


When we detect conflicting irrelevant stimuli (e.g., nearby conversations), we often minimize distraction by increasing attention to relevant stimuli. However, dissociating the neural substrates of processes that detect conflict and processes that increase attention has proven exceptionally difficult. Using a novel cross-modal attentional cueing task in humans, we observed regional specialization for these processes in the cognitive division of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC(cd)). Activity in a dorsal subregion was associated with increasing attention to relevant stimuli, correlated with behavioral measures of orienting attention to those stimuli, and resembled activity in dorsolateral prefrontal regions that are also thought to bias attention toward relevant stimuli. In contrast, activity in a rostral subregion was associated only with detecting response conflict caused by irrelevant stimuli. These findings support a 2-component model for minimizing distraction and speak to a longstanding debate over how the ACC(cd) contributes to cognitive control.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Young Adult