The Simon task is used to study interference from irrelevant spatial information. Interference is manifested by longer reaction times when the required response -based on non-spatial features- is spatially incompatible with stimulus position. Interference is greater when incompatible trials are preceded by compatible trials (compatible-incompatible sequence) than when they are preceded by incompatible trials (incompatible-incompatible sequence). However, the relationships between spatial attention, interference and cognitive control have not been investigated. In the present study, we distinguished three experimental conditions according to sequential effects: same mappings (SM, compatible-compatible/incompatible-incompatible sequences: low interference), opposite mappings (OM, compatible-incompatible/incompatible-compatible sequences: high interference) and unrelated mappings (UM, central-compatible/central-incompatible sequences: intermediate interference). The negativity central contralateral (N2cc, a correlate of prevention of spatial response tendencies) was larger in OM than in SM, indicating greater cognitive control for greater interference. Furthermore, N2cc was larger in UM than in SM/OM, indicating lower neural efficiency for suppressing spatial tendencies of the response after central trials. Attentional processes (negativity posterior contralateral) were also delayed in UM relative to SM/OM, suggesting attentional facilitation by similar sets of attentional shifts in successive trials. Overall, the present findings showed that cognitive control is modulated by the magnitude of interference and pre-activation of monitoring mechanisms.
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