A neural microcircuit for cognitive conflict detection and signaling

Trends Neurosci. 2014 Sep;37(9):480-90. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2014.06.004. Epub 2014 Jul 14.


During human response conflict - competition between multiple conflicting actions when a mistake could be made - a specific pattern of brain electrical activity occurs over the medial frontal cortex (MFC), characterized by modulations of ongoing theta-band (∼6Hz) oscillations and synchronization with task-relevant brain regions. Despite the replicable and robust findings linking MFC theta to conflict processing, the significance of MFC theta for how neural microcircuits actually detect conflict and broadcast that signal is unknown. A neural MFC microcircuit model is proposed for processing conflict and generating theta oscillations. The model makes several novel predictions for the causes and consequences of MFC theta and conflict processing, and may be relevant for understanding the neural implementations of related cognitive processes.

Keywords: cognitive control; cortical column; medial frontal cortex; microcircuit; neurocomputation; theta oscillations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology