The cingulate cortex is an important interface between emotional regulation, sensing and action. It has strong reciprocal connections to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the basal ganglia, and insula, and many other brain regions making it an important physical and functional interface between regions.
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), located at the front of the cingulate cortex has a diversity of connections and thus functions such as:
- Affect regulation, salience of internal and external stimuli, and vocalizations associated with states. It is a major target of midbrain dopaminergic neurons making it sensitive to reward-related parameters as well as connections with the amygdala.
- Cognitive decision-making, especially in regards to anticipation and the management of social behaviour. The ACC is important in deciding what to do when there is conflicting information or information that is coming in that is in conflict with anticipation.
- Autonomic and endocrine responses, pain perception, initiation of motor movements.
The posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), located at the back of the cingulate cortex is regarded as part of the default mode network (DMN) and is active in the recall of autobiographical memory, emotional stimuli, and the regulation of internal/external attention. It has massive reciprocal connections with the ACC and share emotional and motivational information flow.
Additional resources on this site:
Conservative Brains vs Liberal Brains ( https://www.thescienceofpsychotherapy.com/conservative-brains-vs-liberal-brains/
) – Lou Cozolino’s article suggest that conservatives and liberals are characterized by differences in either activation or volume in the anterior
cingulate cortex (as well as other brain areas) – liberal group demonstrated greater ACC activation than conservatives = greater novelty detection, conflict monitoring, decision-making, self-reflective capacity, attachment
, and empathy.
And here’s a study from last year (New research advances understanding of the function of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex and its tie to human learning)
– So this research demonstrates that the ACC has expectations about what’s going to happen. Then, when the result of our actions leads to an outcome, our brain assesses whether that outcome was the same as what we expected. The ACC is integrally involved in this process. If the outcome is not what we expected, the ACC reacts with a larger electrical charge – known as feedback negativity – than if the outcome was expected. https://www.thescienceofpsychotherapy.com/unlv-study-reveals-breakthrough-in-decoding-brain-function/
A study from last year as well that looks at the effects of child abuse on the ACC – the long-lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences, like severe abuse, may be due to an impaired structure and functioning of cells in the anterior
cingulate cortex (esp. in the development of white matter or myelination) “changes may alter functional coupling between the cingulate cortex and subcortical structures such as the amygdala
and nucleus accumbens (areas of the brain linked respectively to emotional regulation and to reward and satisfaction) and contribute to altered emotional processing in people who have been abused during childhood.” https://www.thescienceofpsychotherapy.com/child-abuse-affects-brain-wiring/
[I also touch on research that divides the ACC into two different functional areas: (a) the affect subdivision
, encompassing the rostral
areas connected with limbic
and paralimbic regions—involved in regulating responses to stressful events, emotional expression, and social behavior; and (b) the cognitive subdivision
, comprising the dorsal
regions closely connected with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
—involved in processing cognitively demanding information. So, hypoactivation of the affect subdivision may blunt emotional experiencing and arousal
, while hypoactivation of the cognitive subdivision may impair the recruitment and monitoring of executive functions to meet challenges
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