Neural networks of response shifting: influence of task speed and stimulus material

Rainer Loose, Christian Kaufmann, Oliver Tucha, Dorothee P Auer, Klaus W Lange
Brain Research 2006 May 23, 1090 (1): 146-55
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used in 14 healthy subjects to measure brain activation, while response shifting was performed. In the activation phase, subjects were asked to shift their attention between two different types of visually presented stimuli. In the baseline phase, subjects were required to attend to one stimulus type only. Subjects responded by pressing a left or right key according to the side of presentation of the target stimuli. In a verbal task, subjects were required to switch between letters and numbers. In a figural task, subjects reacted to round and square shapes. Stimuli were presented for 750 or 1500 ms. Response shifting revealed significantly increased activation compared to non-switching in the bilateral superior parietal cortex, right occipital cortex, left inferior frontal cortex, left and right striatum, and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Superior parietal and occipital cortex activation may be due to spatial analysis during response shifting. Subvocal rehearsal of the task instructions may have led to activation in the left inferior frontal cortex. Activation in the striatum was related to prefrontal activation and may represent the association between basal ganglia and prefrontal activation during executive control. However, the most important brain region involved in the execution of response shifting was the bilateral DLPFC. Higher task speed increased executive top-down attentional control and, therefore, significantly increased activity in the bilateral DLPFC. Brain activation did not differ significantly between verbal and figural stimulus material. This result suggests that brain activation in the present study illustrates the brain regions involved in the basic cognitive mechanisms of response shifting.

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