Theta lingua franca: A common mid-frontal substrate for action monitoring processes

James F. Cavanagh, Laura Zambrano-Vazquez, John J.B. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

400 Scopus citations


We present evidence that a multitude of mid-frontal event-related potential (ERP) components partially reflect a common theta band oscillatory process. Specifically, mid-frontal ERP components in the N2 time range and error-related negativity time range are parsimoniously characterized as reflections of theta band activities. Forty participants completed three different tasks with varying stimulus-response demands. Permutation tests were used to identify the dominant time-frequency responses of stimulus- and response-locked conditions as well as the enhanced responses to novelty, conflict, punishment, and error. A dominant theta band feature was found in all conditions, and both ERP component amplitudes and theta power measures were similarly modulated by novelty, conflict, punishment, and error. The findings support the hypothesis that generic and reactive medial prefrontal cortex processes are parsimoniously reflected by theta band activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-238
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Anterior cingulate
  • Conflict
  • ERN
  • FRN
  • N2
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Theta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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