The Functional Integration of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex during Conflict Processing

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Although functional activation of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) related to conflict processing has been studied extensively, the functional integration of the subdivisions of the ACC and other brain regions during conditions of conflict is still unclear. In this study, participants performed a task designed to elicit conflict processing by using flanker interference on target response while they were scanned using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. The physiological response of several brain regions in terms of an interaction between conflict processing and activity of the anterior rostral cingulate zone (RCZa) of the ACC, and the effective connectivity between this zone and other regions were examined using psychophysiological interaction analysis and dynamic causal modeling, respectively. There was significant integration of the RCZa with the caudal cingulate zone (CCZ) of the ACC and other brain regions such as the lateral prefrontal, primary, and supplementary motor areas above and beyond the main effect of conflict and baseline connectivity. The intrinsic connectivity from the RCZa to the CCZ was modulated by the context of conflict. These findings suggest that conflict processing is associated with the effective contribution of the RCZa to the neuronal activity of CCZ, as well as other cortical regions.

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