The Role of Anterior Cingulate Cortex in the Affective Evaluation of Conflict.
An influential theory of ACC function argues that this brain region plays a crucial role in the affective evaluation of performance monitoring and control demands. Specifically, control-demanding processes such as response conflict are thought to be registered as aversive signals by ACC, which in turn triggers processing adjustments to support avoidance learning. In support of conflict being treated as an aversive event, recent behavioral studies demonstrated that incongruent (i.e., conflict inducing), relative to congruent, stimuli can speed up subsequent negative, relative to positive, affective picture processing. Here, we used fMRI to investigate directly whether ACC activity in response to negative versus positive pictures is modulated by preceding control demands, consisting of conflict and task-switching conditions. The results show that negative, relative to positive, pictures elicited higher ACC activation after congruent, relative to incongruent, trials, suggesting that ACC's response to negative (positive) pictures was indeed affectively primed by incongruent (congruent) trials. Interestingly, this pattern of results was observed on task repetitions but disappeared on task alternations. This study supports the proposal that conflict induces negative affect and is the first to show that this affective signal is reflected in ACC activation.
Braem, S; King, JA; Korb, FM; Krebs, RM; Notebaert, W; Egner, T
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