Proactive and reactive processes in the medial frontal cortex: An electrophysiological study

Flavio T P Oliveira, Clayton Hickey, John J. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
118 Downloads (Pure)


The posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) is known to be involved in adaptive goal-directed behavior, but its specific function is not yet clear. Most theories have proposed that the pMFC monitors performance in a reactive manner only, but it is possible that the pMFC also contributes to performance monitoring in a proactive manner. To date, the evidence for proactive pMFC activity is equivocal. Here, we investigated pMFC activity before, during and after the performance of a challenging motor task. Participants navigated a cursor through narrow and wide mazes in randomly intermixed trials. On each trial, participants saw previews of the actual maze display prior to gaining control of the cursor. Event-related potentials (ERPs) to the preview displays were compared to ERPs elicited by no-go signals and errors. Compared to the wider maze, the preview display for the more challenging narrow maze elicited a medial-frontal negativity (MFN) similar to the ERP components elicited by no-go signals and errors. Like these known ERP components, the preview-elicited MFN appeared to be generated from a source in pMFC. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the pMFC participates in adaptive behavior whenever there is a need for increased effort to maintain successful task performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere84351
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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