The efficiency with which the brain resolves conflict in information processing is determined by contextual factors that modulate internal control states, such as the recent (local) and longer-term (global) occurrence of conflict. Local "control context" effects can be observed in trial-by-trial adjustments to conflict (congruency sequence effects: less interference following incongruent trials), whereas global control context effects are reflected in adjustments to the frequency of conflict encountered over longer sequences of trials ("proportion congruent effects": less interference when incongruent trials are frequent). Previous neuroimaging and lesion studies suggest that the modulation of conflict-control processes by local control context relies on partly dissociable neural circuits for cognitive (non-emotional) vs. emotional conflicts. By contrast, emotional and non-emotional conflict-control processes have not been contrasted with respect to their modulation by global control context. We addressed this aim in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study that varied the proportion of congruent trials in emotional vs. non-emotional conflict tasks across blocks. We observed domain-general conflict-related signals in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and pre-supplementary motor area and, more importantly, task-domain also interacted with global control context effects: specifically, the dorsal striatum and anterior insula tracked control-modulated conflict effects exclusively in the emotional domain. These results suggest that, similar to the neural mechanisms of local control context effects, there are both overlapping as well as distinct neural substrates involved in the modulation of emotional and non-emotional conflict-control by global control context.
Proportion congruent and conflict adaptation are two well known effects associated with cognitive control. A critical open question is whether they reflect the same or separate cognitive control mechanisms. In this experiment, in a training phase we introduced a proportion congruency manipulation for one conflict type (i.e. Simon), whereas in pre-training and post-training phases two conflict types (e.g. Simon and Spatial Stroop) were displayed with the same incongruent-to-congruent ratio. The results supported the sustained nature of the proportion congruent effect, as it transferred from the training to the post-training phase. Furthermore, this transfer generalized to both conflict types. By contrast, the conflict adaptation effect was specific to conflict type, as it was only observed when the same conflict type (either Simon or Stroop) was presented on two consecutive trials (no effect was observed on conflict type alternation trials). Results are interpreted as supporting the reactive and proactive control mechanisms distinction.
In a paradigm combining spatial Stroop with spatial cueing, the current study investigated the role of the presence vs. absence of placeholders on the reduction of the spatial Stroop effect by peripheral cueing. At a short cue-target interval, the modulation of peripheral cueing over the spatial Stroop effect was observed independently of the presence/absence of placeholders. At the long cue-target interval, however, this modulation over the spatial Stroop effect only occurred in the placeholders-present condition. These findings show that placeholders are modulators but not mediators of the reduction of the spatial Stroop effect by peripheral cueing, which further favor the cue-target integration account.
Earlier studies have demonstrated that spatial cueing differentially reduces stimulus-stimulus congruency (e.g., spatial Stroop) interference but not stimulus-response congruency (e.g., Simon; e.g., Lupiáñez & Funes, 2005). This spatial cueing modulation over spatial Stroop seems to be entirely attributable to object-based attention (e.g., Luo, Lupiáñez, Funes, & Fu, 2010). In the present study, two experiments were conducted to further explore whether the cueing modulation of spatial Stroop is object based and/or space based and to analyse the "locus" of this modulation. In Experiment 1, we found that the cueing modulation over spatial Stroop is entirely object based, independent of stimulus-response congruency. In Experiment 2, we observed that the modulation of object-based attention over the spatial Stroop only occurred at a short cue-target interval (i.e., stimulus onset asynchrony; SOA), whereas the stimulus-response congruency effect was not modulated either by object-based or by location-based attentional cueing. The overall pattern of results suggests that the spatial cueing modulation over spatial Stroop arises from object-based attention and occurs at the perceptual stage of processing.
Inhibition of return (IOR) is modulated by task set and appears later in discrimination tasks than in detection tasks. Several hypotheses have been suggested to account for this difference. We tested three of these hypotheses in two experiments by examining the influence of cue and target level of processing on the onset of IOR. In the first experiment, participants were required to respond to both the cue and target. The pattern of results showed that deeper processing of the cue or target advanced the onset of IOR. In the second experiment, participants were not required to respond to the cue and a reverse pattern of results emerged, which replicated the general findings in cuing tasks. We conclude that in more-demanding tasks, an additional process slows down the processing of a nonpredictive cue in order to enhance the processing of the target.
Observers performed three between- and two within-category perceptual decisions with hybrid stimuli comprising low and high spatial frequency (SF) images. We manipulated (a) attention to, and (b) congruency of information in the two SF bands. Processing difficulty of the different SF bands varied across different categorization tasks: house-flower, face-house, and valence decisions were easier when based on high SF bands, while flower-face and gender categorizations were easier when based on low SF bands. Larger interference also arose from response relevant distracters that were presented in the "preferred" SF range of the task. Low SF effects were facilitated by short exposure durations. The results demonstrate that decisions are affected by an interaction of task and SF range and that the information from the non-attended SF range interfered at the decision level. A further analysis revealed that overall differences in the statistics of image features, in particular differences of orientation information between two categories, were associated with decision difficulty. We concluded that the advantage of using information from one SF range over another depends on the specific task requirements that built on the differences of the statistical properties between the compared categories.
Conflict adaptation effects refer to the reduction of interference when the incongruent stimulus occurs immediately after an incongruent trial, compared with when it occurs after a congruent trial. The present study analyzes the key conditions that lead to adaptation effects that are specific to the type of conflict involved versus those that are conflict general. In the first 2 experiments, we combined 2 types of conflict for which compatibility arises from clearly different sources in terms of dimensional overlap while keeping the task context constant across conflict types. We found a clear pattern of specificity on conflict adaptation across conflict types. In subsequent experiments, we tested whether this pattern could be accounted in terms of feature integration processes contributing differently to repetition versus alternation of conflict types. The results clearly indicated that feature integration was not key to generating conflict type specificity on conflict adaptation. The data are consistent with there being separate modes of control for different types of cognitive conflict.
Previous studies have shown that past and future temporal concepts are spatially represented (past being located to the left and future to the right in a mental time line). This study aims at further investigating the nature of this space-time conceptual metaphor, by testing whether the temporal reference of words orient spatial attention or rather prime a congruent left/right response. A modified version of the spatial cuing paradigm was used in which a words temporal reference must be kept in working memory whilst participants carry out a spatial localization (Experiment 1) or a direction discrimination, spatial Stroop task (Experiment 2). The results showed that the mere activation of the past or future concepts both oriented attention and primed motor responses to left or right space, respectively, and these effects were independent. Moreover, in spite of the fact that such time-reference cues were nonpredictive, the use of a short and a long stimulus onset asynchrony in Experiment 3 showed that these cues modulated spatial attention as typical central cues like arrows do, suggesting a common mechanism for these two types of cuing.
This study assessed whether two well known effects associated with cognitive control, conflict adaptation (the Gratton effect) and conflict context (proportion congruent effects), reflect a single common or separate control systems. To test this we examined if these two effects generalized from one kind of conflict to another by using a combined-conflict paradigm (involving the Simon and Spatial Stroop tasks) and manipulating the proportion of congruent to incongruent trials for one conflict (Simon) but not the other (Spatial Stroop). We found that conflict adaptation effects did not generalize, but the effect of conflict context did. This contrasting pattern of results strongly suggests the existence of two separate attentional control systems, one transient and responsible of online regulation of performance (conflict adaptation), the other sustained and responsible for conflict context effects.
During the past 20 years there has been much research into the factors that modulate awareness of contralesional information in neurological patients with visual neglect or extinction. However, the potential role of the individuals emotional state in modulating awareness has been largely overlooked. In the current study, we induced a pleasant and positive affective response in patients with chronic visual neglect by allowing them to listen to their pleasant preferred music. We report that the patients showed enhanced visual awareness when tasks were performed under preferred music conditions relative to when tasks were performed either with unpreferred music or in silence. These results were also replicated when positive affect was induced before neglect was tested. Functional MRI data showed enhanced activity in the orbitofrontal cortex and the cingulate gyrus associated with emotional responses when tasks were performed with preferred music relative to unpreferred music. Improved awareness of contralesional (left) targets with preferred music was also associated with a strong functional coupling between emotional areas and attentional brain regions in spared areas of the parietal cortex and early visual areas of the right hemisphere. These findings suggest that positive affect, generated by preferred music, can decrease visual neglect by increasing attentional resources. We discuss the possible roles of arousal and mood in generating these effects.
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