Abstract

The neural substrate of cognitive control is thought to comprise an evaluative component located in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and an executive component in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The control mechanism itself is mainly local, triggered by response conflict (monitored by the ACC) and involving the allocation of executive resources (recruited by the PFC) in a trial-to-trial fashion. However, another way to achieve control would be to use a strategic mechanism based on long-term prediction of upcoming events and on a chronic response strategy that ignores local features of the task. In the current study, we showed that such a strategic control mechanism was based on a functional dissociation or complementary relationship between the ACC and the PFC. When information in the environment was available to make predictions about upcoming stimuli, local task features (e.g., response conflict) were no longer used as a control signal. We suggest that having separate control mechanisms based on local or global task features allows humans to be persistent in pursuing their goals, yet flexible enough to adapt to changes in the environment.

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