Selection, integration, and conflict monitoring; assessing the nature and generality of prefrontal cognitive control mechanisms.
Prefrontal cortex (PFC) supports flexible behavior by mediating cognitive control, though the elemental forms of control supported by PFC remain a central debate. Dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) is thought to guide response selection under conditions of response conflict or, alternatively, may refresh recently active representations within working memory. Lateral frontopolar cortex (FPC) may also adjudicate response conflict, though others propose that FPC supports higher order control processes such as subgoaling and integration. Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is hypothesized to upregulate response selection by detecting response conflict; it remains unclear whether ACC functions generalize beyond monitoring response conflict. The present fMRI experiment directly tested these competing theories regarding the functional roles of DLPFC, FPC, and ACC. Results reveal dissociable control processes in PFC, with mid-DLPFC selectively mediating resolution of response conflict and FPC further mediating subgoaling/integration. ACC demonstrated a broad sensitivity to control demands, suggesting a generalized role in modulating cognitive control.