The present study employed event-related fMRI and EEG to investigate the biological basis of the cognitive control of behavior. Using a GO/NOGO task optimized to produce response inhibitions, frequent commission errors, and the opportunity for subsequent behavioral correction, we identified distinct cortical areas associated with each of these specific executive processes. Two cortical systems, one involving right prefrontal and parietal areas and the second regions of the cingulate, underlay inhibitory control. The involvement of these two systems was predicated upon the difficulty or urgency of the inhibition and each was employed to different extents by high- and low-absent-minded subjects. Errors were associated with medial activation incorporating the anterior cingulate and pre-SMA while behavioral alteration subsequent to errors was associated with both the anterior cingulate and the left prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, the EEG data demonstrated that successful response inhibition depended upon the timely activation of cortical areas as predicted by race models of response selection. The results highlight how higher cognitive functions responsible for behavioral control can result from the dynamic interplay of distinct cortical systems.
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