Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is a part of the brain's limbic system. Classically, this region has been related to affect, on the basis of lesion studies in humans and in animals. In the late 1980s, neuroimaging research indicated that ACC was active in many studies of cognition. The findings from EEG studies of a focal area of negativity in scalp electrodes following an error response led to the idea that ACC might be the brain's error detection and correction device. In (...) this article, these various findings are reviewed in relation to the idea that ACC is a part of a circuit involved in a form of attention that serves to regulate both cognitive and emotional processing. Neuroimaging studies showing that separate areas of ACC are involved in cognition and emotion are discussed and related to results showing that the error negativity is influenced by affect and motivation. In addition, the development of the emotional and cognitive roles of ACC are discussed, and how the success of this regulation in controlling responses might be correlated with cingulate size. Finally, some theories are considered about how the different subdivisions of ACC might interact with other cortical structures as a part of the circuits involved in the regulation of mental and emotional activity. (shrink)
Metacognition refers to any knowledge or cognitive process that monitors or controls cognition. We highlight similarities between metacognitive and executive control functions, and ask how these processes might be implemented in the human brain. A review of brain imaging studies reveals a circuitry of attentional networks involved in these control processes, with its source located in midfrontal areas. These areas are active during conflict resolution, error correction, and emotional regulation. A developmental approach to the organization of the anatomy involved in (...) executive control provides an added perspective on how these mechanisms are influenced by maturation and learning, and how they relate to metacognitive activity. (shrink)
Children show increasing control of emotions and behavior during their early years. Our studies suggest a shift in control from the brain’s orienting network in infancy to the executive network by the age of 3—4 years. Our longitudinal study indicates that orienting influences both positive and negative affect, as measured by parent report in infancy. At 3—4 years of age, the dominant control of affect rests in a frontal brain network that involves the anterior cingulate gyrus. Connectivity of brain structures (...) also changes from infancy to toddlerhood. Early connectivity of parietal and frontal areas is important in orienting; later connectivity involves midfrontal and anterior cingulate areas related to executive attention and self-regulation. (shrink)
This article examines the anatomy and circuitry of skills that, like reading, calculating, recognizing, or remembering, are common abilities of humans. While the anatomical areas active are unique to each skill there are features common to all tasks. For example, all skills produce activation of a small number of widely separated neural areas that appear necessary to perform the task. These neural areas relate to internal codes that may not be observed by any external behavior nor be reportable by the (...) performer. There is considerable plasticity to the performance of skills. Task components can be given priority through attention, which serves to increase activation of the relevant brain areas. Attention can also cause reactivation of sensory areas driven by input, but usually only after a delay. The threshold for activation for any area may be temporarily reduced by prior activation . Skill components requiring attention tend to cause interference resulting in the dual tasks effects and unified focus of attention described in many cognitive studies. Practice may change the size or number of brain areas involved and alter the pathways used by the skill. By combining cognitive and anatomical analyses, a more general picture of the nature of skill emerges. (shrink)
In our view, a central issue in relating brain development to education is whether classroom interventions can alter neural networks related to cognition in ways that generalize beyond the specific domain of instruction. This issue depends upon understanding how neural networks develop under the influence of genes and experience. Imaging studies have revealed common networks underlying many important tasks undertaken at school, such as reading and number skills, and we are beginning to learn how genes and experience work together to (...) shape the development of these networks. The results obtained appear sufficient to propose research-based interventions that could prove useful in improving the ability of children to adjust to the school setting and to acquire skills like literacy and numeracy. (shrink)
Recent data indicate that under a specific posthypnotic suggestion to circumvent reading, highly suggestible subjects successfully eliminated the Stroop interference effect. The present study examined whether an optical explanation could account for this finding. Using cyclopentolate hydrochloride eye drops to pharmacologically prevent visual accommodation in all subjects, behavioral Stroop data were collected from six highly hypnotizables and six less suggestibles using an optical setup that guaranteed either sharply focused or blurred vision. The highly suggestibles performed the Stroop task when naturally (...) vigilant, under posthypnotic suggestion not to read, and while visually blurred; the less suggestibles ran naturally vigilant, while looking away, and while visually blurred. Although visual accommodation was precluded for all subjects, posthypnotic suggestion effectively eliminated Stroop interference and was comparable to looking away in controls. These data strengthen the view that Stroop interference is neither robust nor inevitable and support the hypothesis that posthypnotic suggestion may exert a top-down influence on neural processing. (shrink)
Research in cognitive neuroscience now considers the state of the brain prior to the task an important aspect of performance. Hypnosis seems to alter the brain state in a way which allows external input to dominate over internal goals. We examine how normal development may illuminate the hypnotic state.
Kentridge and Heywood (this issue) extend the concept of metacognition to include unconscious processes. We acknowledge the possible contribution of unconscious processes, but favor a central role of awareness in metacognition. We welcome Shimamura's (this issue) extension of the concept of metacognitive regulation to include aspects of working memory, and its relation to executive attention.
Rather than starting with traits and speculating whether selective forces drove evolution in past environments, we propose starting with a candidate gene associated with a trait and testing first for patterns of selection at the DNA level. This can provide limitations on the number of traits to be evaluated subsequently by adaptationism as described by Andrews et al.
ERP studies have shown modulation of activation in left frontal and posterior cortical language areas, as well as recruitment of right hemisphere homologues, based on task demands. Furthermore, blood-flow studies have demonstrated changes in the neural circuitry of word processing based on experience. The neural areas and time course of language processing are plastic depending on task demands and experience.