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

James F. Cavanagh, Laura Zambrano-Vazquez, John JB Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

252 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
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012



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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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