Widespread temporal coding of cognitive control in the human prefrontal cortex

Nat Neurosci. 2019 Nov;22(11):1883-1891. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0494-0. Epub 2019 Sep 30.


When making decisions we often face the need to adjudicate between conflicting strategies or courses of action. Our ability to understand the neuronal processes underlying conflict processing is limited on the one hand by the spatiotemporal resolution of functional MRI and, on the other hand, by imperfect cross-species homologies in animal model systems. Here we examine the responses of single neurons and local field potentials in human neurosurgical patients in two prefrontal regions critical to controlled decision-making, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). While we observe typical modest conflict-related firing rate effects, we find a widespread effect of conflict on spike-phase coupling in the dACC and on driving spike-field coherence in the dlPFC. These results support the hypothesis that a cross-areal rhythmic neuronal coordination is intrinsic to cognitive control in response to conflict, and provide new evidence to support the hypothesis that conflict processing involves modulation of the dlPFC by the dACC.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Time Factors*