Dissociation of response conflict, attentional selection, and expectancy with functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Two different attentional networks have been associated with visuospatial attention and conflict resolution. In most situations either one of the two networks is active or both are increased in activity together. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging and a flanker task, we show conditions in which one network (anterior attention system) is increased in activity whereas the other (visuospatial attention system) is reduced, showing that attentional conflict and selection are separate aspects of attention. Further, we distinguish between neural systems involved in different forms of conflict. Specifically, we dissociate patterns of activity in the basal ganglia and insula cortex during simple violations in expectancies (i.e., sudden changes in the frequency of an event) from patterns of activity in the anterior attention system specifically correlated with response conflict as evidenced by longer response latencies and more errors. These data provide a systems-level approach in understanding integrated attentional networks.