Journal of Neurophysiology

Role of the human anterior cingulate cortex in the control of oculomotor, manual, and speech responses: a positron emission tomography study

T. Paus, M. Petrides, A. C. Evans, E. Meyer


1. Two experiments were aimed at investigating the functional organization of the human anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in relation to higher-order motor control. 2. The 15O-labeled H2O bolus method was used to measure relative changes of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in 18 healthy human subjects as they performed oculomotor, manual, or speech tasks. 3. Task-specific rCBF changes were obtained in distinct subregions of the ACC, depending on the output system employed. The oculomotor and the manual task-related foci were found in the rostral and caudal regions of the ACC, respectively, whereas the speech foci were localized within two cingulate subregions, the intermediate dorsal and the rostral ACC. 4. In the manual tasks, two groups of activation foci could be distinguished, one just behind and the other just in front of the vertical plane traversing the anterior commissure. 5. The above pattern of rCBF changes was observed only if there was concomitant activation within the lateral prefrontal cortex (except for the posterior group of foci obtained in the manual tasks). 6. The localization of output-specific rCBF changes within the human ACC is consistent with the known somatotopic organization of the cingulate cortex in the monkey. 7. It is tentatively proposed that the ACC participates in motor control by facilitating the execution of the appropriate responses and/or suppressing the execution of the inappropriate ones. Such a modulatory effect would be of particular importance when behavior has to be modified in new and challenging situations.