Event-related functional MRI and a version of the Stroop color naming task were used to test two conflicting theories of anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) function during executive processes of cognition. A response-related increase in ACC activity was present when strategic processes were less engaged, and conflict high, but not when strategic processes were engaged and conflict reduced. This is inconsistent with the widely held view that the ACC implements strategic processes to reduce cognitive conflicts, such as response competition. Instead, it suggests that the ACC serves an evaluative function, detecting cognitive states such as response competition, which may lead to poor performance, and representing the knowledge that strategic processes need to be engaged.
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