Using neural pattern classifiers to quantify the modularity of conflict-control mechanisms in the human brain.
Resolving conflicting sensory and motor representations is a core function of cognitive control, but it remains uncertain to what degree control over different sources of conflict is implemented by shared (domain general) or distinct (domain specific) neural resources. Behavioral data suggest conflict-control to be domain specific, but results from neuroimaging studies have been ambivalent. Here, we employed multivoxel pattern analyses that can decode a brain region's informational content, allowing us to distinguish incidental activation overlap from actual shared information processing. We trained independent sets of "searchlight" classifiers on functional magnetic resonance imaging data to decode control processes associated with stimulus-conflict (Stroop task) and ideomotor-conflict (Simon task). Quantifying the proportion of domain-specific searchlights (capable of decoding only one type of conflict) and domain-general searchlights (capable of decoding both conflict types) in each subject, we found both domain-specific and domain-general searchlights, though the former were more common. When mapping anatomical loci of these searchlights across subjects, neural substrates of stimulus- and ideomotor-specific conflict-control were found to be anatomically consistent across subjects, whereas the substrates of domain-general conflict-control were not. Overall, these findings suggest a hybrid neural architecture of conflict-control that entails both modular (domain specific) and global (domain general) components.
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