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Two modes of midfrontal theta suggest a role in conflict and error processing
, A.R. Aron, M.X. Cohen, R. Schmidt
Published in Academic Press Inc.
PMID: 37059155
Volume: 273
Midfrontal theta increases during scenarios when conflicts are successfully resolved. Often considered a generic signal of cognitive control, its temporal nature has hardly been investigated. Using advanced spatiotemporal techniques, we uncover that midfrontal theta occurs as a transient oscillation or “event” at single trials with their timing reflecting computationally distinct modes. Single-trial analyses of electrophysiological data from participants performing the Flanker (N = 24) and Simon task (N = 15) were used to probe the relationship between theta and metrics of stimulus-response conflict. We specifically investigated “partial errors”, in which a small burst of muscle activity in the incorrect response effector occurred, quickly followed by a correction. We found that transient theta events in single trials could be categorized into two distinct theta modes based on their relative timing to different task events. Theta events from the first mode occurred briefly after the task stimulus and might reflect conflict-related processing of the stimulus. In contrast, theta events from the second mode were more likely to occur around the time partial errors were committed, suggesting they were elicited by a potential upcoming error. Importantly, in trials in which a full error was committed, this “error-related theta” occurred too late with respect to the onset of the erroneous muscle response, supporting the role of theta also in error correction. We conclude that different modes of transient midfrontal theta can be adopted in single trials not only to process stimulus-response conflict, but also to correct erroneous responses. © 2023
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PublisherAcademic Press Inc.