Posterior medial frontal cortex activity predicts post-error adaptations in task-related visual and motor areas

Research Area: Research Year: 2011
Type of Publication: Article
Authors: Danielmeier, C.; Eichele, Tom; Forstmann, B. U.; Tittgemeyer, M.; Ullsperger, M.
As Seneca the Younger put it, "To err is human, but to persist is diabolical." To prevent repetition of errors, human performance monitoring often triggers adaptations such as general slowing and/or attentional focusing. The posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) is assumed to monitor performance problems and to interact with other brain areas that implement the necessary adaptations. Whereas previous research showed interactions between pMFC and lateral-prefrontal regions, here we demonstrate that upon the occurrence of errors the pMFC selectively interacts with perceptual and motor regions and thereby drives attentional focusing toward task-relevant information and induces motor adaptation observed as post-error slowing. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data from an interference task reveal that error-related pMFC activity predicts the following: (1) subsequent activity enhancement in perceptual areas encoding task-relevant stimulus features; (2) activity suppression in perceptual areas encoding distracting stimulus features; and (3) post-error slowing-related activity decrease in the motor system. Additionally, diffusion-weighted imaging revealed a correlation of individual post-error slowing and white matter integrity beneath pMFC regions that are connected to the motor inhibition system, encompassing right inferior frontal gyrus and subthalamic nucleus. Thus, disturbances in task performance are remedied by functional interactions of the pMFC with multiple task-related brain regions beyond prefrontal cortex that result in a broad repertoire of adaptive processes at perceptual as well as motor levels.
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