Neurocognitive mechanisms of action control: resisting the call of the Sirens

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci. 2011 Mar;2(2):174-192. doi: 10.1002/wcs.99. Epub 2010 Jul 13.


An essential facet of adaptive and versatile behavior is the ability to prioritize actions in response to dynamically changing circumstances. The field of potential actions afforded by a situation is shaped by many factors, such as environmental demands, past experiences, and prepotent tendencies. Selection among action affordances can be driven by deliberate, intentional processes as a product of goal-directed behavior and by extraneous stimulus-action associations as established inherently or through learning. We first review the neurocognitive mechanisms putatively linked to these intention-driven and association-driven routes of action selection. Next, we review the neurocognitive mechanisms engaged to inhibit action affordances that are no longer relevant or that interfere with goal-directed action selection. Optimal action control is viewed as a dynamic interplay between selection and suppression mechanisms, which is achieved by an elaborate circuitry of interconnected cortical regions (most prominently the pre-supplementary motor area and the right inferior frontal cortex) and basal ganglia structures (most prominently the dorsal striatum and the subthalamic nucleus). WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 174-192 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.99 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.