Neural dynamics of error processing in medial frontal cortex.
Mars RB., Coles MGH., Grol MJ., Holroyd CB., Nieuwenhuis S., Hulstijn W., Toni I.
Adaptive behavior requires an organism to evaluate the outcome of its actions, such that future behavior can be adjusted accordingly and the appropriate response selected. During associative learning, the time at which such evaluative information is available changes as learning progresses, from the delivery of performance feedback early in learning to the execution of the response itself during learned performance. Here, we report a learning-dependent shift in the timing of activation in the rostral cingulate zone of the anterior cingulate cortex from external error feedback to internal error detection. This pattern of activity is seen only in the anterior cingulate, not in the pre-supplementary motor area. The dynamics of these reciprocal changes are consistent with the claim that the rostral cingulate zone is involved in response selection on the basis of the expected outcome of an action. Specifically, these data illustrate how the anterior cingulate receives evaluative information, indicating that an action has not produced the desired result.