Task difficulty modulates brain activation in the emotional oddball task.
Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have reported that task-irrelevant, emotionally salient events can disrupt target discrimination, particularly when attentional demands are low, while others demonstrate alterations in the distracting effects of emotion in behavior and neural activation in the context of attention-demanding tasks. We used fMRI, in conjunction with an emotional oddball task, at different levels of target discrimination difficulty, to investigate the effects of emotional distractors on the detection of subsequent targets. In addition, we distinguished different behavioral components of target detection representing decisional, nondecisional, and response criterion processes. Results indicated that increasing target discrimination difficulty led to increased time required for both the decisional and nondecisional components of the detection response, as well as to increased target-related neural activation in frontoparietal regions. The emotional distractors were associated with activation in ventral occipital and frontal regions and dorsal frontal regions, but this activation was attenuated with increased difficulty. Emotional distraction did not alter the behavioral measures of target detection, but did lead to increased target-related frontoparietal activation for targets following emotional images as compared to those following neutral images. This latter effect varied with target discrimination difficulty, with an increased influence of the emotional distractors on subsequent target-related frontoparietal activation in the more difficult discrimination condition. This influence of emotional distraction was in addition associated specifically with the decisional component of target detection. These findings indicate that emotion-cognition interactions, in the emotional oddball task, vary depending on the difficulty of the target discrimination and the associated limitations on processing resources.
Siciliano, RE; Madden, DJ; Tallman, CW; Boylan, MA; Kirste, I; Monge, ZA; Packard, LE; Potter, GG; Wang, L
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