Prefrontal cortex and cognitive control: new insights from human electrophysiology

Alik S. Widge, Sarah R. Heilbronner, Benjamin Y. Hayden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Cognitive control, the ability to regulate one’s cognition and actions on the basis of over-riding goals, is impaired in many psychiatric conditions. Although control requires the coordinated function of several prefrontal cortical regions, it has been challenging to determine how they work together, in part because doing so requires simultaneous recordings from multiple regions. Here, we provide a précis of cognitive control and describe the beneficial consequences of recent advances in neurosurgical practice that make large-scale prefrontal cortical network recordings possible in humans. Such recordings implicate inter-regional theta (5–8 Hz) local field potential (LFP) synchrony as a key element in cognitive control. Major open questions include how theta might influence other oscillations within these networks, the precise timing of information flow between these regions, and how perturbations such as brain stimulation might demonstrate the causal role of LFP phenomena. We propose that an increased focus on human electrophysiology is essential for an understanding of the neural basis of cognitive control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1696
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by R01 MH118257 (to SRH), DA 038615 (to BYH). ASW acknowledges support from the OneMind Institute and the National Institutes of Health (UH3 NS100548, R21 MH113103, R01 EB026938, R01 MH119384) for work discussed in this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Widge AS et al.


  • Cingulate
  • Cognitive control
  • Conflict
  • Electrophysiology
  • Local field potential
  • Humans
  • Cognition
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Prefrontal Cortex/physiology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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