Author(s): Dreher JC, Berman KF
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Abstract Psychological and neurobiological theories of cognitive control must account for flexible, seemless transitions among cognitive operations. When subjects switch between tasks, they must both inhibit the previous task and re-engage in a different task. Inhibition of the disengaged task remains active for a period of time and has to be overcome when re-engaging in the same task. Here we used a task-switching paradigm that allows distinction of two control processes: overcoming the inhibition of a previously performed task when re-engaging it and restarting a sequence of tasks after a period of interruption. Behaviorally, these processes were reflected in the facts that: (i) switching to a recently performed task, that is thus unlikely to have fully recovered from inhibition, takes longer than switching to a task less recently performed and (ii) re-engaging in a sequence of tasks after a period of interruption transiently increases response time. Using event-related functional MRI, we found that these two behavioral effects were accompanied by a double dissociation: the right lateral prefrontal cortex was more activated when switching to a task recently performed compared to a task less recently performed, while the anterior cingulate cortex was recruited when a sequence of tasks was initiated. These results provide insights into the functional organization of the frontal lobe in humans and its role in distinct processes involved in cognitive control.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in International Journal of Neurorehabilitation