Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Dorsal anterior cingulate: a Rorschach test for cognitive neuroscience

The dorsal anterior cingulate cortex is one of the most beguiling regions of the brain. Understanding its essential function has become a holy grail for many cognitive neuroscientists. With this scrutiny has come contention. In this issue, two teams of neuroscientists with different views argue for their favored interpretation of neural activity in this region. Here, we provide some background and context for this debate.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Heilbronner, S.R. & Hayden, B.Y. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 39, 149–170 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Parvizi, J., Rangarajan, V., Shirer, W.R., Desai, N. & Greicius, M.D. Neuron 80, 1358–1366 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Kolling, N. et al. Nat. Neurosci. 19, 1280–1285 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Shenhav, A., Cohen, J.D. & Botvinick, M.M. Nat. Neurosci. 19, 1286–1291 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Botvinick, M., Nystrom, L.E., Fissell, K., Carter, C.S. & Cohen, J.D. Nature 402, 179–181 (1999).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Boorman, E.D., Rushworth, M.F. & Behrens, T.E. J. Neurosci. 33, 2242–2253 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Hare, T.A., Schultz, W., Camerer, C.F., O'Doherty, J.P. & Rangel, A. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108, 18120–18125 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Shenhav, A., Botvinick, M.M. & Cohen, J.D. Neuron 79, 217–240 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ito, S., Stuphorn, V., Brown, J.W. & Schall, J.D. Science 302, 120–122 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Ebitz, R.B. & Platt, M.L. Neuron 85, 628–640 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Apps, M.A., Rushworth, M.F. & Chang, S.W. Neuron 90, 692–707 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Wager, T.D. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113, E2472–E2475 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Chen, X. & Stuphorn, V. eLife 4, e09418 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Rudebeck, P.H. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 5391–5396 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hayden, B.Y., Smith, D.V. & Platt, M.L. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 4, 223 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Benjamin Yost Hayden.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Note

ACC Perspective (PDF 90 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ebitz, R., Hayden, B. Dorsal anterior cingulate: a Rorschach test for cognitive neuroscience. Nat Neurosci 19, 1278–1279 (2016).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing