Behavioral Conflict, Anterior Cingulate Cortex, and Experiment Duration: Implications of Diverging Data

Kirk I. Erickson, Michael P. Milham, Stanley J. Colcombe, Arthur F. Kramer, Marie T. Banich, Andrew Webb, Neal J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We investigated the relationship between behavioral measures of conflict and the degree of activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). We reanalyzed an existing data set that employed the Stroop task using functional magnetic resonance imaging [Milham et al., Brain Cogn 2002;49:277-296]. Although we found no changes in the behavioral measures of conflict from the first to the second half of task performance, we found a reliable reduction in the activity of the anterior cingulate cortex. This result suggests the lack of a strong relationship between behavioral measurements of conflict and anterior cingulate activity. A concomitant increase in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity was also found, which may reflect a tradeoff in the neural substrates involved in supporting conflict resolution, detection, or monitoring processes. A second analysis of the data revealed that the duration of an experiment can dramatically affect interpretations of the results, including the roles in which particular regions are thought to play in cognition. These results are discussed in relation to current conceptions of ACC's role in attentional control. In addition, we discuss the implication of our results with current conceptions of conflict and of its instantiation in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-107
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2004



  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Conflict
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • Neuroimaging
  • Stroop
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this

Erickson, K. I., Milham, M. P., Colcombe, S. J., Kramer, A. F., Banich, M. T., Webb, A., & Cohen, N. J. (2004). Behavioral Conflict, Anterior Cingulate Cortex, and Experiment Duration: Implications of Diverging Data. Human Brain Mapping, 21(2), 98-107.