Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 302–321 | Cite as

Distributed representations of action sequences in anterior cingulate cortex: A recurrent neural network approach

Theoretical Review


Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) has been the subject of intense debate over the past 2 decades, but its specific computational function remains controversial. Here we present a simple computational model of ACC that incorporates distributed representations across a network of interconnected processing units. Based on the proposal that ACC is concerned with the execution of extended, goal-directed action sequences, we trained a recurrent neural network to predict each successive step of several sequences associated with multiple tasks. In keeping with neurophysiological observations from nonhuman animals, the network yields distributed patterns of activity across ACC neurons that track the progression of each sequence, and in keeping with human neuroimaging data, the network produces discrepancy signals when any step of the sequence deviates from the predicted step. These simulations illustrate a novel approach for investigating ACC function.


Anterior cingulate cortex Recurrent neural network Sequence learning Surprise 



The order of authorship is arbitrary; both authors made equal contributions to the research and preparation of this article. This research was supported in part by funding from the Canada Research Chairs program and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant (312409–05) awarded to C.B.H.

Supplementary material

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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