Task switching and novelty processing activate a common neural network for cognitive control

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Publication Details

Author list: Barceló F
Publisher: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press): 3 month embargo
Publication year: 2006
Volume number: 18
Issue number: 10
Start page: 1734
End page: 1748
Number of pages: 15
ISSN: 0898-929X
Languages: English-Great Britain (EN-GB)


The abrupt onset of a novel event captures attention away from, and
disrupts, ongoing task performance. Less obvious is that intentional
task switching compares with novelty-induced behavioral distraction.
Here we explore the hypothesis that intentional task switching and
attentional capture by a novel distracter both activate a common neural
network involved in processing contextual novelty [Barcelo, F.,
Periáñez, J. A., & Knight, R. T. Think differently: A brain
orienting response to task novelty. NeuroReport, 13, 1887-1892, 2002.].
Event-related potentials were recorded in two task-cueing paradigms
while 16 subjects sorted cards following either two (color or shape;
two-task condition) or three (color, shape, or number; three-task
condition) rules of action. Each card was preceded by a familiar tone
cueing the subject either to switch or to repeat the previous rule.
Novel sound distracters were interspersed in one of two blocks of trials
in each condition. Both novel sounds and task-switch cues impaired
responses to the following visual target. Novel sounds elicited novelty
P3 potentials with their usual peak latency and frontal-central scalp
distribution. Familiar tonal switch cues in the three- and two-task
conditions elicited brain potentials with a similar latency and
morphology as the novelty P3, but with relatively smaller amplitudes
over frontal scalp regions. Covariance and principal component analyses
revealed a sustained frontal negative potential that was distorting
concurrent novelty P3 activity to the tonal switch cues. When this
frontal negativity was statistically removed, P3 potentials to novel
sounds and task-switch cues showed similar scalp topographies. The
degree of activation in the novelty P3 network seemed to be a function
of the information (entropy) conveyed by the eliciting stimulus for
response selection, over and above its relative novelty, probability of
occurrence, task relevance, or feedback value. We conclude that novelty
P3 reflects transient activation in a neural network involved in
updating task set information for goal-directed action selection and
might thus constitute one key element in a central bottleneck for
attentional control.


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Last updated on 2019-13-08 at 00:16