Preparatory neural activity predicts performance on a conflict task.
Advance preparation has been shown to improve the efficiency of conflict resolution. Yet, with little empirical work directly linking preparatory neural activity to the performance benefits of advance cueing, it is not clear whether this relationship results from preparatory activation of task-specific networks, or from activity associated with general alerting processes. Here, fMRI data were acquired during a spatial Stroop task in which advance cues either informed subjects of the upcoming relevant feature of conflict stimuli (spatial or semantic) or were neutral. Informative cues decreased reaction time (RT) relative to neutral cues, and cues indicating that spatial information would be task-relevant elicited greater activity than neutral cues in multiple areas, including right anterior prefrontal and bilateral parietal cortex. Additionally, preparatory activation in bilateral parietal cortex and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex predicted faster RT when subjects responded to spatial location. No regions were found to be specific to semantic cues at conventional thresholds, and lowering the threshold further revealed little overlap between activity associated with spatial and semantic cueing effects, thereby demonstrating a single dissociation between activations related to preparing a spatial versus semantic task-set. This relationship between preparatory activation of spatial processing networks and efficient conflict resolution suggests that advance information can benefit performance by leading to domain-specific biasing of task-relevant information.
Stern, ER; Wager, TD; Egner, T; Hirsch, J; Mangels, JA
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