Pretrial predictors of conflict response efficacy in the human prefrontal cortex


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The ability to perform motor actions depends, in part, on the brain's initial state. We hypothesized that initial state dependence is a more general principle and applies to cognitive control. To test this idea, we examined human single units recorded from the dorsolateral prefrontal (dlPFC) cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) during a task that interleaves motor and perceptual conflict trials, the multisource interference task (MSIT). In both brain regions, variability in pre-trial firing rates predicted subsequent reaction time (RT) on conflict trials. In dlPFC, ensemble firing rate patterns suggested the existence of domain-specific initial states, while in dACC, firing patterns were more consistent with a domain-general initial state. The deployment of shared and independent factors that we observe for conflict resolution may allow for flexible and fast responses mediated by cognitive initial states. These results also support hypotheses that place dACC hierarchically earlier than dlPFC in proactive control.
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