Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex: A Bottom-Up View

Sarah R. Heilbronner, Benjamin Y. Hayden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

277 Scopus citations


The dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) has attracted great interest from neuroscientists because it is associated with so many important cognitive functions. Despite, or perhaps because of, its rich functional repertoire, we lack a single comprehensive view of its function. Most research has approached this puzzle from the top down, using aggregate measures such as neuroimaging. We provide a view from the bottom up, with a focus on single-unit responses and anatomy. We summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the three major approaches to characterizing the dACC: as a monitor, as a controller, and as an economic structure. We argue that neurons in the dACC are specialized for representing contexts, or task-state variables relevant for behavior, and strategies, or aspects of future plans. We propose that dACC neurons link contexts with strategies by integrating diverse task-relevant information to create a rich representation of task space and exert high-level and abstract control over decision and action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-170
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual review of neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 8 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright ©2016 by Annual Reviews.


  • Conflict
  • DACC
  • Executive control
  • Monitoring
  • Neuroeconomics
  • Reward


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