In the task-switching paradigm, reaction time is longer and accuracy is worse in switch trials relative to repetition trials. This so-called switch cost has been ascribed to the engagement of control processes required to alternate between distinct stimulus-response mapping rules. Neuroimaging studies have reported an enhanced activation of the human lateral prefrontal cortex and the superior frontal gyrus during the task-switching paradigm. Whether neural activation in these regions is dissociable and associated with separable cognitive components of task switching has been a matter of recent debate. We used multi-channel near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure brain cortical activity in a task-switching paradigm designed to avoid task differences, order predictability, and frequency effects. The results showed a generalized bilateral activation of the lateral prefrontal cortex and the superior frontal gyrus in both switch trials and repetition trials. To isolate the activity selectively associated with the task-switch, the overall activity recorded during repetition trials was subtracted from the activity recorded during switch trials. Following subtraction, the remaining activity was entirely confined to the left portion of the superior frontal gyrus. The present results suggest that factors associated with load and maintenance of distinct stimulus-response mapping rules in working memory are likely contributors to the activation of the lateral prefrontal cortex, whereas only activity in the left superior frontal gyrus can be linked unequivocally to switching between distinct cognitive tasks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience