Frontal theta as a mechanism for cognitive control

Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 Aug;18(8):414-21. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.04.012. Epub 2014 May 15.


Recent advancements in cognitive neuroscience have afforded a description of neural responses in terms of latent algorithmic operations. However, the adoption of this approach to human scalp electroencephalography (EEG) has been more limited, despite the ability of this methodology to quantify canonical neuronal processes. Here, we provide evidence that theta band activities over the midfrontal cortex appear to reflect a common computation used for realizing the need for cognitive control. Moreover, by virtue of inherent properties of field oscillations, these theta band processes may be used to communicate this need and subsequently implement such control across disparate brain regions. Thus, frontal theta is a compelling candidate mechanism by which emergent processes, such as 'cognitive control', may be biophysically realized.

Keywords: ERP; cognitive control; computational modeling; frontal cortex; prediction error; theta.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electroencephalography
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*