Written by Dragos CIRNECI on . Posted in Special issue: Neurosciences, Volume III, Nr. 4


Norman and Shallice (1980; 1986) argued that a supervisory system would be necessary for those types of behaviors or situations in which routine or automatic processes are inadequate. The systems involved in the regulation of thought, emotion and behavior have been given the label "supervisory" or "executive attention" (Posner & Rothbart, 1998). Posner note that the set of functions suggested for this system appear to be implemented by a brain network that includes the midfrontal cortical areas, most often within the anterior cingulate gyrus, and underlying basal ganglia. Posner and Rothbart (1998) claims that control begins, in infants, with the regulation of distress and most likely involves the interaction of anterior cingulate cortex with the amygdala, and then generalize to other situations where conflicting demands must be resolved. A direct measure of the development of executive attention might be reflected in the ability to resolve conflict between simultaneous stimulus events as in the Stroop task. Anterior cingulate activation is confirmed by several separate Stroop (or Stroop-like) studies. In the emotional Stroop task subjects with anxiety disorders take longer to color-name words related to their central concerns relative to other words, and relative to people without anxiety disorders. I postulate that this effect is caused, both by an overreaction of the amygdala to threatening stimuli, and a deficit of control from anterior cingulate cortex on amygdala

KEYWORDS: amygdala, anterior cingulate, anxiety, emotional Stroop, executive attention, inhibition