Separable responses to error, ambiguity, and reaction time in cingulo-opercular task control regions

Maital Neta, Bradley L. Schlaggar, Steven E. Petersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC), along with the closely affiliated anterior insula/frontal operculum, have been demonstrated to show three types of task control signals across a wide variety of tasks. One of these signals, a transient signal that is thought to represent performance feedback, shows greater activity to error than correct trials. Other work has found similar effects for uncertainty/ambiguity or conflict, though some argue that dACC activity is, instead, modulated primarily by other processes more reflected in reaction time. Here, we demonstrate that, rather than a single explanation, multiple information processing operations are crucial to characterizing the function of these brain regions, by comparing operations within a single paradigm. Participants performed two tasks in an fMRI experimental session: (1) deciding whether or not visually presented word pairs rhyme, and (2) rating auditorily presented single words as abstract or concrete. A pilot was used to identify ambiguous stimuli for both tasks (e.g., word pair: BASS/GRACE; single word: CHANGE). We found greater cingulo-opercular activity for errors and ambiguous trials than clear/correct trials, with a robust effect of reaction time. The effects of error and ambiguity remained when reaction time was regressed out, although the differences decreased. Further stepwise regression of response consensus (agreement across participants for each stimulus; a proxy for ambiguity) decreased differences between ambiguous and clear trials, but left error-related differences almost completely intact. These observations suggest that trial-wise responses in cingulo-opercular regions monitor multiple performance indices, including accuracy, ambiguity, and reaction time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Separable responses to error, ambiguity, and reaction time in cingulo-opercular task control regions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this