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Distinct Regions within Medial Prefrontal Cortex Process Pain and Cognition.

Title: Distinct Regions within Medial Prefrontal Cortex Process Pain and Cognition.
Name(s): Jahn, Andrew, author
Nee, Derek Evan, author
Alexander, William H, author
Brown, Joshua W, author
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Journal Article
Date Issued: 2016-12-07
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Neuroimaging studies of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) suggest that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) region is responsive to a wide variety of stimuli and psychological states, such as pain, cognitive control, and prediction error (PE). In contrast, a recent meta-analysis argues that the dACC is selective for pain, whereas the supplementary motor area (SMA) and pre-SMA are specifically associated with higher-level cognitive processes (Lieberman and Eisenberger, 2015). To empirically test this claim, we manipulated effects of pain, conflict, and PE in a single experiment using human subjects. We observed a robust dorsal-ventral dissociation within the mPFC with cognitive effects of PE and conflict overlapping dorsally and pain localized more ventrally. Classification of subjects based on the presence or absence of a paracingulate sulcus showed that PE effects extended across the dorsal area of the dACC and into the pre-SMA. These results begin to resolve recent controversies by showing the following: (1) the mPFC includes dissociable regions for pain and cognitive processing; and (2) meta-analyses are correct in localizing cognitive effects to the dACC, although these effects extend to the pre-SMA as well. These results both provide evidence distinguishing between different theories of mPFC function and highlight the importance of taking individual anatomical variability into account when conducting empirical studies of the mPFC. Decades of neuroimaging research have shown the mPFC to represent a wide variety of stimulus processing and cognitive states. However, recently it has been argued whether distinct regions of the mPFC separately process pain and cognitive phenomena. To address this controversy, this study directly compared pain and cognitive processes within subjects. We found a double dissociation within the mPFC with pain localized ventral to the cingulate sulcus and cognitive effects localized more dorsally within the dACC and spreading into the pre-supplementary motor area. This provides empirical evidence to help resolve the current debate about the functional architecture of the mPFC.
Identifier: FSU_pmch_27807031 (IID), 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2180-16.2016 (DOI), PMC5148227 (PMCID), 27807031 (RID), 27807031 (EID), JNEUROSCI.2180-16.2016 (PII)
Keywords: Cognition, Conflict, Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, Medial prefrontal cortex, Pain, Paracingulate sulcus
Grant Number: R01 HD073288
Publication Note: This NIH-funded author manuscript originally appeared in PubMed Central at
Subject(s): Adult
Conflict (Psychology)
Galvanic Skin Response
Gyrus Cinguli/diagnostic imaging
Gyrus Cinguli/physiology
Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Pain/diagnostic imaging
Prefrontal Cortex/diagnostic imaging
Prefrontal Cortex/physiology
Prefrontal Cortex/physiopathology
Young Adult
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU
Is Part Of: The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.
Issue: iss. 49, vol. 36

Choose the citation style.
Jahn, A., Nee, D. E., Alexander, W. H., & Brown, J. W. (2016). Distinct Regions within Medial Prefrontal Cortex Process Pain and Cognition. The Journal Of Neuroscience : The Official Journal Of The Society For Neuroscience. Retrieved from