Three key regions for supervisory attentional control: evidence from neuroimaging meta-analyses

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Jan;48:22-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.11.003. Epub 2014 Nov 11.


The supervisory attentional system has been proposed to mediate non-routine, goal-oriented behaviour by guiding the selection and maintenance of the goal-relevant task schema. Here, we aimed to delineate the brain regions that mediate these high-level control processes via neuroimaging meta-analysis. In particular, we investigated the core neural correlates of a wide range of tasks requiring supervisory control for the suppression of a routine action in favour of another, non-routine one. Our sample comprised n=173 experiments employing go/no-go, stop-signal, Stroop or spatial interference tasks. Consistent convergence across all four paradigm classes was restricted to right anterior insula and inferior frontal junction, with anterior midcingulate cortex and pre-supplementary motor area being consistently involved in all but the go/no-go task. Taken together with lesion studies in patients, our findings suggest that the controlled activation and maintenance of adequate task schemata relies, across paradigms, on a right-dominant midcingulo-insular-inferior frontal core network. This also implies that the role of other prefrontal and parietal regions may be less domain-general than previously thought.

Keywords: Go/no-go; Meta-analysis; PET; Spatial interference; Stop signal; Stroop; Supervisory attentional system; fMRI.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Humans