Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the value of control

Nature Neuroscience 2016

Debates over the function(s) of dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) have persisted for decades. So too have demonstrations of the region's association with cognitive control. Researchers have struggled to account for this association and, simultaneously, dACC's involvement in phenomena related to evaluation and motivation. We describe a recent integrative theory that achieves this goal. It proposes that dACC serves to specify the currently optimal allocation of control by determining the overall expected value of control (EVC), thereby licensing the associated cognitive effort. The EVC theory accounts for dACC's sensitivity to a wide array of experimental variables, and their relationship to subsequent control adjustments. Finally, we contrast our theory with a recent theory proposing a primary role for dACC in foraging-like decisions. We describe why the EVC theory offers a more comprehensive and coherent account of dACC function, including dACC's particular involvement in decisions regarding foraging or otherwise altering one's behavior.

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