Neural correlates of changing intention in the human FEF and IPS.
Previous research demonstrates that our apparent mental flexibility depends largely on the strength of our prior intention; changing our intention in advance enables a smooth transition from one task to another (e.g., Astle DE, Jackson GM, Swainson R. J Cogn Neurosci 20: 255-267, 2008; Duncan J, Emslie H, Williams P, Johnson R, Freer C. Cogn Psychol 30: 257-303, 1996; Husain M, Parton A, Hodgson TL, Mort D, Rees G. Nat Neurosci 6: 117-118, 2003). However, these necessarily rapid anticipatory mechanisms have been difficult to study in the human brain. We used EEG and magnetoencephalography, specifically event-related potentials and fields (ERPs and ERFs), respectively, to explore the neural correlates of this important aspect of mental flexibility. Subjects performed a manual version of a pro/antisaccade task using preparatory cues to switch between the pro- and antirules. When subjects switched their intention, we observed a positivity over central electrodes, which correlated significantly with our behavioral data; the greater the ERP effect, the stronger the subjects change of intention. ERFs, alongside subject-specific structural MRIs, were used to project into source space. When subjects switched their intention, they showed significantly elevated activity in the right frontal eye field and left intraparietal sulcus (IPS); the greater the left IPS activity on switch trials, the stronger the subjects change of intention. This network has previously been implicated in the top-down control of eye movements, but here we demonstrate its role in the top-down control of a task set, in particular, that it is recruited when we change the task that we intend to perform.